Why yes, I have thoughts.
But first things first: I'm going down to the kitchen to grab today's first cup of coffee...
Next thing: The image below was just sent to me by George & Daryl in Bristol. This poster was tacked to the wall in the Hillside Pub there and I totally fell in love with it!! Nosferatu carrying a pint of ale!! Too funny, so they sent it to me just now and now I'm sharing it with you:
Okey dokey. Now let's shift from ale to rum! (And Bristol is a nice segue, since it's the alleged home of legendary pirates like Long John Silver, and pirates allegedly liked rum...)
(Wow, this post is really going to cover some territory! I've already touched on Nosferatu and Long John Silver; it can only get better from here -- right, gang?)
The Rum Diary depressed me. But at some point, I'll give it another shot and see if I feel differently. As just a film, it's a little uneven but pretty to look at (except for the cockfighting scenes, which were plentiful). That Vanity Fair interview I was so fond of (see post below somewhere about The Rum Diary vs. Vanity Fair), indicated that the film was going to be really different from Hunter's book but the only way I thought it really differed was that in the book version of The Rum Diary it was easier to follow the plot.
I'm not trying to be snarky. And maybe people who haven't already read the book can follow the plot of the movie just fine. I can't possibly be impartial on that since it's too late; I've already read the book.
But that stuff aside, the reason I found the film so depressing was because I do think, overall, it was a really nice homage from Johnny Depp to Hunter S. Thompson. Now isn't that depressing??? But wait; there's more! It was a beautiful homage in that it pre-announces (yes, there's another word for that but the coffee hasn't kicked in yet, gang, and somewhere in the depths of caffeine lays the door to my vocabulary) -- the homage "sets the stage" for the literary masterpieces Hunter was destined to write.
Yet I couldn't help but see beyond the early 1970s, wherein he wrote those masterpieces (and just FYI, I am calling F&L in Las Vegas and F&L on the Campaign Trail '72 his masterpieces) to the wasteland of dissipation that awaited Hunter beyond the realm of masterpieces; the wasteland of alcoholism and drug addiction that made the ending of his story -- self-inflicted gun shot -- the only acceptable ending; the "Hemingway Ending," as it were. (Hunter was a big fan of Ernest Hemingway. I on the other hand, am not. The only thing of Hemingway's that I liked was A Moveable Feast. Incurable romantic that I am, I have always been much more in the F. Scott Fitzgerald camp and frankly much prefer his ending: heart attack at age 44 after a lifetime of chronic alcoholism.) (To be fair, though, Hunter was a fan of both those author's works and while he was also an alcoholic, by the time he killed himself at 67, it was too late for him to die of a heart attack at age 44.)
The Rum Diary is only a so-so book. It's readable and memorable, and it does herald (wow! there's the word!) the Hunter S. Thompson yet to come. If you aren't a Thompson fan to begin with, then probably there's "no there there" in The Rum Diary. In the way that Summer Crossing hints at Truman Capote's finding his voice -- if you aren't a Capote fan and can't see the grandness of what's coming, then the novel is just a (perhaps) readable book.
What's interesting, though, is how Stephen Hero doesn't come anywhere at all close to heralding A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. To be fair, though, Stephen Hero wasn't actually a book; it was just a collection of notes, really, that greedy people tried to pass off as "a book" so that people like us, who had read Portrait in 1982 and who couldn't get enough of that voice would buy Stephen Hero thinking we could get more of that voice, but alas, Joyce took it to the grave with him and we were out the 7 or 8 dollars we'd paid for the emptiness of Stephen Hero.
I think that, ultimately, my depression lay somewhere in that thought. Not being out the 7 or 8 bucks when I was 22. But more in the thought that whatever Hunter achieved, it was long ago and fleeting and he did indeed give in to the temptations of the wasteland and, though he wrote tons of other stuff from 1973 until he died, none of it came close to capturing what he nailed from 1970 to 1973. Three fucking years within 67.
It's heartbreaking to me how many of my literary heroes were basically just drunks, or drug addicts, or both. And "there but for the grace of God," you know? Since the age of 12, I certainly have spent a disproportionate amount of my days and nights -- in total -- either drunk or on drugs. I have that Hillbilly Deluxe triple-whammy: I'm part Native American, part German, part Irish. With that kind of heritage, to get out of this world without becoming an alcoholic is kind of a miracle. I've got serious alcoholics on both sides of my biological families, going back for generations. However, I have the tiniest bit of French-Canadian blood thrown into that mix. Maybe that tiny portion of French-Canadian-ness is what gives me my iron will? I am always able to put on the brakes, abstain, get on with a productive life. It doesn't mean that I can't empathize completely with those folks among us who can't -- or who couldn't -- put the brakes on.
I empathize perhaps too keenly. Hence, I see a simple film like The Rum Diary and I see so many other layers that didn't make it up on to that screen and the sadness of it, the inexplicable nature of life on Earth, overwhelms me.
About Marilyn Jaye
Causes Marilyn Jaye Lewis Supports
The Film Council of Greater Columbus, Columbus, OH
The Adrienne Shelley Foundation, NY, NY
Paralyzed Veterans of America, Washington, DC...