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Good Read: The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

Today being Hunter S. Thompson's 75th birthday, I suppose there's no better time to finally write up my good read about The Rum Diary. I picked this up as a winter read to warm the bones, but it's so refreshing you may as well pick it up to cool down this summer. How do I explain that a book with little to no plot or conflict is actually extremely compelling?

The best thing about the book is (as you may predict) Thompson's narrative voice. The protagonist, journalist Jack Kemp, is deeply committed to a lifestyle of surly recklessness while plugging away at a failing English-language newspaper. Entrenched in the decadence of 50s era Puerto Rico, much of the story revolves around Kemp lusting after his colleague's beautiful girlfriend and finding ways to make enough money for more rum. Kemp is by no means a hero, but he does seem to be the most level-headed of his peers in this menagerie of a story that whirs into a frenzy of a climax. 

Don't read The Rum Diary for stunning insight into the meaning of life, or for any masterfully gripping plot. It's a booze-soaked diary of a flawed, but totally human guy on a rampant joyride. It's atmospheric at best, humorous throughout, contains very short chapters, perfect with a very cold glass of a beverage of your choice.

- Matt Markgraf

Description from Amazon:

Begun in 1959 by a twenty-two-year-old Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary is a brilliantly tangled love story of jealousy, treachery, and violent alcoholic lust in the Caribbean boomtown that was San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the late 1950s. The narrator, freelance journalist Paul Kemp, irresistibly drawn to a sexy, mysterious woman, is soon thrust into a world where corruption and get-rich-quick schemes rule and anything (including murder) is permissible. Exuberant and mad, youthful and energetic, this dazzling comedic romp provides a fictional excursion as riveting and outrageous as Thompson’s Fear and Loathing books.

Please note: Good Reads are commentaries, solely the opinion of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WKMS.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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