With the recent release of the movie ‘The Rum Diary’ about to occur, I did a little of the old fashioned manner of research and went to my local library to see if they happened to have a copy. I found to my surprise a first edition from 1998, and the quaint old pricing scheme: US $24.00, Can. $36.00
Ironically – it was bound in the old & yellowing plastic book cover & had only been checked out a dozen times since 1998. I read it in a evening and found it to be just okay – confusing – yet with some flashes of true genius. One passage in particular that stuck with me had to do about the game of Football, which he obviously loved. I though it worth sharing:
‘I recalled my Saturdays at Vanderbilt and the precision beauty of a Georgia Tech backfield, pushing us back and back with that awful belly series, a lean figure in a gold jersey, slashing over a hole that should never have been there, now loose on the crisp grass of our secondary and an unholy shout from the stands across the way; and finally to bring the bastard down, escape those blockers coming at you like cannonballs, then line up again and face that terrible machinery. It was a torturous thing, but beautiful in its way; here were men who would never again function or even understand how they were supposed to function as well as they did today. They were dolts and thugs for the most part, huge pieces of meat, trained to a fine edge – but somehow they mastered those complex plays and patterns, and in rare moments they were artists.’
As it turns out, his brother was the football star, and he simply wrote himself into the picture. After all, it was to be his first novel, it just took until 1998 for it to finally be published.
While at the library looking for the book, I happened across the memoir titled “Gonzo” by Jann Werner, based on notes & interviews from various people in his life. It serves to be a very satisfying read, and almost a primer on what & how to read Thompson. It gives one a real chronological sequence of events and how they ultimately lead him down his path of ‘Gonzo’ journalism.
Reflecting on his works – there are always a few paragraphs of pure magic that occur in each of his books. Perhaps it was his training as a reporter that lead to such short yet effective words. As for the lunacy, there was much of it, and much hilarity as well. Although as I reflect upon it, he ended up in a rather sad, depressing state, always worried about keeping up with the legend that he had become.
I guess the lesson to be learned here is to enjoy the brilliance when you can, just don’t count on it every time. I think I’ll make a point of looking up some of his more recently released notes & letters. If I find something worth mentioning, I will.