The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary – Hunter S. Thompson, rum, cock-fighting, more rum, and . . . well . . . more rum.

It was 1959. Or was it 1960? He was 22 (He of course, being Hunter S. Thompson ). He flew into San Juan, Puerto Rico to work for a small sport’s paper, which later gave rise to the story stemming from the Caribbean hotspot, fittingly titled: The Rum Diary. The idea was to write an American novel that rivaled Hemingway and/or Fitzgerald, centered around Rum. He completed the novel to his liking and got a contract, but after continuous requests for revisions from the publisher and his other project regarding the Hell’s Angels really picking up steam, both parties agreed that The Hell’s Angels project should be his sole focus. The Rum Diary was tossed in a drawer. The manuscript was not finally published until 1998, almost 40 years later, after a historian stumbled upon it while rummaging through Hunter’s basement, helping him prepare for an upcoming story collection. Funny how good things always find their way back.

The book is about Paul Kemp, a young aspiring novelist who hadn’t found his voice just yet.

“I have no voice. I don’t know how to write like me.”

To pay the bills, he moves out to San Juan to pursue a job at a local newspaper. Before long, he is hired on by a rich real estate tycoon to write up property advertisements. For every bright light—be it wealth, riches, or paradise—there must be dark, which is exactly what Kemp is hired to mask. The greedy corruption he is in charge of covering troubles him. And to complicate things further, Kemp is in love with the boss’s girl. Throughout the book, Kemp crosses paths with several reckless characters and takes part in a wild drinking binge, rum being the vice of choice.

“How does anyone drink a hundred and sixty one miniatures?”

Before it’s all said and done, Kemp sets out to expose the corruption that he was once hired to cover up.

And oh yes, we cannot forget about the cock-fighting. I mean, how else was he going to get the money to run the story exposing all of those rich-yuppie pricks now that the paper had closed?

I really enjoyed the book. It is definitely softer than Hunter’s other works (the most popular being Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), but the humor and wit of a verging Hunter S. Thompson come through page after page. After reading it, I was inspired to go back through some of his other works.

The movie was a good representation of the book. I don’t know if anyone can upstage Johnny Depp as Kemp/ Duke/ Thompson). Being that they were friends in real life, I think Depp had a true understanding of who and what Hunter S. Thompson really was…something most of us are still trying to figure out. The rest of the cast all round was solid, primarily Giovanni Ribisi, Aaron Eckhart, and the breathtaking Amber Heard (who may be the next Scarlett Johansson). She makes any scene look good, no matter if up next to Johnny Depp or Nicolas Cage.

“We’ve all been down on her. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Despite the Rum Diary being “tame” compared to most of Hunter’s other works—where lacking in anger and hallucinations—it makes up for in simplicity and brilliance. In my opinion, and in defense of Hunter’s greatness, I would read this novel again before I’d read Hemingway or Fitzgerald (no offense Earnest, Scott). Hell, I’d watch the movie again, too. And maybe it’s just me (and hardcore Gonzo fans may disagree); I kind of like the relaxed change of pace this book/movie follows.

So . . . sit down. Relax. Get comfortable. You can put the drugs away (or not, it’s up to you). The Rum Diary can be enjoyed without overloading on LSD for a better understanding. But might I suggest . . . a little rum?

The Rum Diary is Hunter S. Thompson’s 2nd completed novel, and the oldest piece of work he’s had published.

Today marks 11 years since his passing. RIP Gonzo. RIP.

 

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CODE for FAILURE

CODE for FAILURE or SUCCESS and what the fuck’s the difference really?

Code for Failure by Ryan W. Bradley
Blow jobs, turning down blow jobs, booze, cocaine, whoring, tattoos, concussions . . .

Despite being versed in much of the above, I still learned quite a bit reading CODE for FAILURE in the not-quite-two-hours it took me to read it. I learned that in Oregon, you’re not allowed to pump your own gas. I also learned that being a gas station employee gets you more pussy than you can handle; at least it does for our hero.

When I heard about Ryan W. Bradley’s new novel, I had to get my hands all over it. After getting broken in (I couldn’t sit down the next day) with his short story collection, Prize Winners, I was an instant fan. And all the things I loved about Prize Winners came through in CODE for FAILURE: the minimal dialogue, the short “bursting” chapter pieces, the sexiness. Each chapter is set up like the climax from a scene in a movie. The rest of the fluff is scrapped. It’s quick and to the point. There are no unnecessary big words, or excessive adjectives, filling up space, as Ryan W. Bradley ’s writing style is one to where you finish wanting more, not the other way around.

Ryan W. Bradley
I recall his feedback on a couple of my rough drafts: “Keep whittling…I’ve always found there to be more power in only saying what absolutely needs to be said.”

He practices what he preaches. Believe me, I know the dude.

Let’s talk book.

CODE for FAILURE is a story about a guy in his early twenties that pumps your gas and changes your oil after being kicked out of college. “I told the dean to screw herself.” There’s nothing glamorous, whatsoever about this job. Often times, he goes home with more black oil than white skin. He knows for sure he doesn’t want to do this shitty job forever (I mean, who would?), but time ticks on.

We’ve all been there: This job is just temporary. I’m going to do something greater. Then 10 years go by, and what the fuck? I’m still here, except now I’m the old guy I used to make fun of.

Our hero is a smart, hard working guy. He’s also a boozer, recreational drug user, and most importantly, a lady whisperer. Old and young women alike can’t get enough of his “I don’t give a shit” persona and throw themselves at him, almost too easily. Because of this talent and need for more money, he gets dragged into whoring by the older, rich wives around town who are no longer being satisfied by their husbands.

The boss’s sixteen-year old perky daughter wants to fuck him. Hmmm…Should he?

With angry husbands, an almost-sociopathic stalking ex-girlfriend, a gun toting old-timer from work, a bunch of suits, a half deaf Nirvana loving coworker, a cigarette stealing hippie, and countless hot older, yearning-for-attention-and-young-cock housewives, CODE for FAILURE takes you through one man’s mistakes (or are they triumphs?) with the blunt simplistic honesty nothing short of Bukowski .

It’s a love story. Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. You’ll have to spend an hour-and-a-half to read it and find out.

But ultimately, it’s a story of happiness and success and what that truly means. Do you really need all the glitz and glamour to consider yourself successful, happy? Or can you appreciate the smaller things in life? The real things.

It’s relatable.

It’s real.

So my suggestion is this: Grow some fucking stones and get the book. Yes, you too ladies.

And might I also suggest a Whiskey Sour to help you along the way?


Whiskey Sour Recipe

  • 2 (maybe 3) fluid ounces whiskey
  • 1 fluid ounce sweet and sour mix

Directions

  1. Pour whiskey and sweet and sour over ice cubes in a squat, old-fashioned glass.
  2. And you can keep the cherry and lemon for yourself. That’s pussy shit.

That’s it. Enjoy.

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And with that


And with that, I am no longer a paid writer.

Less than three weeks after my first novel places at one festival and wins another, I get word from the publisher that my book (as well as all their other books) is immediately OUT OF PRINT and the company is officially bankrupt. I know the economy hasn’t been easy and these fly-by-night vanity publishing houses fold like nobody’s business, but I thought things were just about to take off. But were they really, though? I mean, the book really wasn’t that good. The story is cute and there’s plenty of sex and feces and so on, but the writing was amateurish. Hell, I started the novel when I was 19 with absolutely no fucking idea of what I was doing. The editing was poor (a lot to do with me being stubborn), so poor that I convinced the publisher to pull the original so that I could revise and correct all the deficiencies. Pretending that the original never happened, we released the revised edition with an addition to the title and a new ISBN all together. That was a good start but the writing was still less than to be desired despite the drastic overhaul. And because I edited the revised version myself (the publisher could not afford an editor this go around), well . . . let’s just say, I’m not an editor. I’m a writer.

I am grateful to the publisher for giving me the opportunity to get a book published. Despite the overall experience (although
exciting) being a total pain in the ass, this initial publication is what told me “I WANT TO BE A WRITER.” It paved the way. The problem is he gave many others the same opportunity which ultimately led to the company’s downfall. When you produce twenty books in a year, you have less time and money to invest in the really good ones that may actually sell. It’s like parental investment but with authors.

I’ve learned a lot over the past 2 years working with the publisher (a lot of what not to do, unfortunately) and continue to learn, improving my craft a little bit every day with help from others along the way. The young, arrogant, better-than-everyone-else, I-don’t-listen-to-nobody-so-fuck-off writer who got his first book published is now open to criticism and eager to get better. And it shows. My short stories continue to get published by credible magazines. My 2nd novel is in the design, editing phase, and is soon to be shopped around (and hopefully picked up). Vote SMUT 2013.

So I’m no longer a paid writer. But I’m a better writer, and that’s what counts, right? Perfecting the craft, finding your voice, all that…

Fuck it. I want to get paid. We all do. But really though, getting better is the first step to making that happen.

If I’ve learned anything at all from this experience that I can pass down, it is this: Get out of the way of yourself. Listen to others. Write. Get better. And when you think your manuscript is perfect, rewrite it. And when you think you’re the best, go fuck yourself… literally. It helps deflate the ego.

Written by a writer who was once a paid writer.

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Drive

Drive

“You tell me where we start, where we’re going, where we’re going afterwards. I give you five minutes when we get there. Anything happens in that five minutes, and I’m yours, no matter what. Anything a minute either side of that, you’re on your own. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down. I don’t carry a gun. I drive.”

Ryan Gosling, car chases, mob violence, love story . . . This movie has a little something to fuel anyone’s wet dream. Personally, what got me off was: the killer retro-digital soundtrack, the sparse dialogue, the abrupt and brutal violence, and the breathtaking visuals. I was hooked from the opening scene, in a trancelike state thanks to the song “Nightcall” by Kavinsky featuring Lovefox.

Nightcall by Kavinsky ft. Lovefox: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdP2q88rw3U

The movie “Drive” is based on the 2005 James Sallis novella with the same title. So, let’s talk book.

The book is an extremely quick read with short two-to-three page chapters adding up to a 158 pages. All in all, it took me two hours to get through. It had its moments with more confrontations and violence than what was depicted in the movie. The main character is only referred to throughout as Driver. His personality came through decently. I got a good feel for his stunt job during the day and get-away-driver job at night. His persona of someone that speaks with actions and very few words came across strong. The book jumps back and forth in time and throws random one page characters at you, which left me somewhat lost. The only character that is developed (as much as a character can be in 158 pages with large font) is Driver. But besides Driver’s character and a few other characters’ names shared, there were very few similarities between the book and the movie that followed.

Back to the movie.

The story takes place in an 80s-noir LA and starts with a “long take” car chase, filmed from inside of the car to get the viewer closer to the action, closer to the story. You become Driver. See what he sees. Feel what he feels. Your heart pounds. Your hands clam up. There’s a baseball game coming from the speakers.

This isn’t your typical high-flying, over-the-top car chase. This one is actually believable, and there’s more slow driving and patient precision decision making than unrealistic exploding fireworks. This does not take away from the intensity or the action, whatsoever, but actually adds to it, in my opinion.

To avoid spoilers, I’ll keep the details to a minimum.

Drive is the story of boy meets girl, boy must save girl from a heist gone wrong. To protect the girl, Driver must go from a seemingly sensitive good hearted young man (whose gotten himself involved with some socially unacceptable behaviors), to a stone cold, vicious, killing badass.

“You look like you’re hard to work with.”

“Not if we understand each other.”

From the driving scenes shot interiorly, to the gut-wrenching facial expressions, to the slowed down extended walking scenes, to the fucking amazing retro-digital soundtrack from start to finish, to the minimal but spot-on dialogue—as simple as the concept
of the movie is, it is the most beautiful film I have seen in a while. Even the brutality is done in a brilliant way. Hell, I even liked the 80s cursive font reminiscent to Risky Business.

“And what do you get out of it?”

“Just that. Out of it.”

In reading Drive and watching the movie more than once, I’ve learned a few things:

1.) Beware of Chrysler 300s.

2.) Five minutes is adequate time for a robbery.

3.) Sometimes, swinging before talking works better.

4.) Forks do penetrate skull.

5.) When cutting someone’s radial artery, go vertically.

“You give me the money, the girl is safe. Forever. Nobody knows about her. She’s off the map. I can’t offer you the same.”

The movie was engrossing from start to finish and stayed true to its dark, composed-yet-intense style through to the ending credits. Actually, I have nothing bad to say about it. I think anyone and everyone can enjoy it. It’s almost mainstream for those Fast and Furious loving fans who adore all the bad acting and steroids and high flying action and Nicholas Cage. And it’s also not too mainstream for those artsy hipsters that only like things that other people hate, or haven’t heard of (you know who you are).

Go out. Get the DVD. For the online junkies, get it on Netflix. And then get the soundtrack. It will be time well invested.

But what do I know?

I drive. That’s all I do.

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Disappear Here: A discussion on Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero and the movie that followed

Disappear Here: A discussion on Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero and the movie that followed

Less Than ZeroPeople are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.

This is the 1st line you read when you open up the controversial 1985 book that put Bret Easton Ellis on the map of young, hot, American fiction writers and part of the so-called “Brat Pack” in the midst of a cocaine-filled, brightly colored 80’s wave. People are afraid to merge. Although there is some hidden, yet significant relevance to this opening line, the line is removed from the 1987 film that followed. The movie claims to be based on the novel but, loosely based on would be a more accurate vindication, as many, although subtle, pertinent parts to the heart of the story were either changed or removed entirely. Why Bret wasn’t asked to collaborate on the writing of the screenplay is beyond me. Unless, that is, the powers at be had their own idea in mind on how to make a transgressive, socially obscure novel more acceptable and appealing to a much broader audience. And the big name actors they acquired didn’t hurt either. It’s only business and even now, where we are almost de-sensitized to violence, sex, vulgarity because of the influx we consume on a daily basis from every media outlet and angle,  there are parts of the book that are still tough for some to muster through. Ahead of its time comes to mind as audiences were, simply put, not ready for a true rendition of the novel.

The novel is well written in an easy-to-read, smooth narrative form and moves at an incredibly fast pace, but the magic of this novel (for me) is what’s not written. The simplicity. The minimilism. The layers of depth that are hidden below the subtle conversations and hints towards something much bigger than what’s on the surface. Ellis masterfully pulls off what he intended to, which is to present a group of, beyond rich, young adults that are completely disconnected from life and anything real. Consumed by material exteriors. Bleach blonde and tan. Expensive cars. Flashy clothes. And an endless supply of high-end drugs. The characters are wholly sheltered from the real world by their almost scary amount of freedom brought upon by unlimited money granted by their parents (who are present in the characters’ actions and who fund their lavish lifestyles but are only briefly spoken of a couple of times throughout). The most frightening part of the book is how (I hate to use this term again) real the story feels driven by the lack of emotion protruding from the characters regarding abortion, rape, excessive drug use leading to overdosing, life, and death. A complete. . . and total. . . disconnection. . . from. . . reality.  Oh, how excessive amounts of money and too much freedom can corrupt almost anyone. I wonder if he’s for sale.

Less Than Zero Film PosterThe movie, although filmed in 1987 in an era where the-brighter-the-ugly-the-better, is still fairly entertaining. That is, as long as you can take it for what it is, which is a 1987 blockbuster movie loosely based on a novel written by Bret Easton Ellis. The movie doesn’t focus on the dejection and lack of anything real that the book was really centered around. It goes more into the drug use and emphasizes the harm that can come from allowing one to become addicted. Some of the acting is a little silly, but all in all, watching it is not a waste of time and there is some beauty to the cinematography and soundtrack. And compared to other movies from this era, I would probably rate it above most.

Thanks to the book, whenever I see victims of an accident on the side of the road where a car is engulfed in flames and people, helpless children perhaps, may be trapped inside needing someone’s, anyone’s help, I like to speed up and maybe even run a red light or two. Or, whenever I run over a coyote, I like to pull over, get out of the car, sit by the suffering animal, and watch it convulse, our eyes locked, until its eyes turn white and roll back. Or, when a twelve year old girl’s arms and legs are tied to bedposts, bound to the bed, at a party, drugged and fucked raw by every guy there, I like to leave that place and maybe even tell someone that something isn’t right about that. Or when I see a dead body laying against a wall in an alley, its face swollen and bloated, I like to poke at it with a stick and laugh with my friends and then maybe even put a cigarette in the dead John Doe’s mouth and then mockingly laugh some more. Or, when my girlfriend asks me if I ever loved her, I like to say. . .no.

Disappear here. People are afraid to merge.

Less Than Zero is one of my all-time favorite reads and was the gate-way book to all of Bret Easton Ellis’ future masterpieces. After reading this book, I was inspired to do so much more with my own personal writing and I hope to encompass some of Bret’s style and rash and brutal, yet subtle, honesty in my writing. Stay tuned for more discussions on one of the greatest novelists of our time, Bret Easton Ellis, and his collection of haunting, transgressive works.

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BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN

BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN: THE BOOK, THE MOVIE, AND THE AUTHOR

“Victory for the Forces of Democratic Freedom!” Only way louder.

This is one of the 1st lines you hear in the movie centering around the 3rd short story in the book which is set in interview form. The interviewee goes on after some reluctance to talk about his embarrassment of what he cries out when he is on the verge of climaxing, struggling from a non-psychiatric diagnosed, so-called Tourette-esque symptom known as coprolalia. “Victory for the Forces of Democratic freedom!” Only shouting it. The interviewee, after ejaculating and shouting this at the top of his lungs without any semblance of control, becomes so embarrassed, that he sends the lady on her way and never calls her again. Then he reveals that the ones (the women) that get to him the most are the ones that (so they say), “understand” and that state that they can still “love him anyway” despite his bizarre outbursts. Those are the ones (the women), that almost piss him off and substantiate and justify his needing to totally avoid them and never talk to them again.

Throughout the book and movie, there is an underlining tone set around men who seemingly unknowingly see women strictly as objects. These men sincerely and from their hearts apologize apathetically over and over again, while at the same time turn the emotional deprivation onto themselves and leave the woman to blame. As in, it’s their fault, the woman involved, that they are leaving. Not his own, despite leaving a historical trail of lies and broken relationships in his past due to these exact same traits and faults of pushing them away because of his so-called “caring for her” and “doing this for her” as in to save her from impending heartache and taking the pain head-on himself, and that this pain he has brought on himself is so much worse than what she is feeling, that she will never be able to understand. And she now should be the one feeling and caring for him and consoling him in this state of emotional stress and need, because it is him that is being so strong by leaving, and he is doing it for her and out of caring about her well-being. But can she? Understand? That it is her insecurities and fear brought on by his historically non-committal character that has pushed him away? Not a direct reflection of his personality flaw, but her?

The book loops and loops around this premise (or a similar premise) again and again, and I do like the irony aspect and the ego-maniacal-self-indulged yet overly-caring-selfless individuals represented. There are a few good “food for thought” pieces to take away throughout, and I think the movie does a good job of high-lighting these pieces all while eliminating the other non-relevant or slower bits. This is a first for me saying, but I enjoyed the movie more so than the book because of that. Not to mention, Jim (John Krasinski) from “The Office” (one of my favorite sitcoms), directed it and brought the paper to life, or at least the pages of paper that I actually liked. I could go on to talk about all of the actors and cameos in the movie, but who gives a fuck? I don’t. The acting was solid, but the movie would’ve had the same impact no matter who read the lines.

David Foster Wallace is (or was) a hell of a writer, as in, he can (or could) write for days and circle around a subtle or monotone statement adding in hundreds of unnecessary pages filled up by even more so unnecessary obscure, sometimes vague and incomprehensible words that only he will (or would) understand. His writing persona is (or was) one of arrogance and pompousness using his overly-extensive vocabulary, and paraphrasing and using self-generated abbreviations and acronyms and “multi-clause” sentences and endless footnotes restating what had already been read once, making the reader read an already seemingly longer than it should be short story yet again but in different phrasing to further this arrogance and pompousness and to prove to everyone and ultimately himself, that he is (or was) smarter than everyone else including his readers. While reading the book, I can’t help but feel that Wallace was challenging me to quit and makes some parts hard to read and slow intentionally to prove his haughty and superior ingenious. Fuck you. I am no quitter. Because of how annoying this fucking book is, I have read it twice and am still undecided on whether to like it or to hate it or both, but by completing it, more than once I shall add again, I have beaten it (or this)which gives me some weird feeling of accomplishment. My suggestion to the reader is… to not read it at all and just watch the movie. Or take a shot at the book. I don’t care.

As many characters from his novel are, self-indulging while claiming to be selfless, ego-maniacal, almost disconnected from true human emotion outside of their own, painfully self conscious and confined by others’ perceptions of them, eliminating the ability to acknowledge a true emotional connection beyond their own insecurities, David Foster Wallace unfortunately fell into those lines, hanging himself on September 12th of 2008 after struggling with depression for over 20 years, a depression that was unsuccessfully treated throughout. A rather large self-ego-saturating statement, suicide is about the most selfish and egocentric thing the human mind can conceive.

As stated by DFW regarding working with others on screenplays, etc:

“I think I would have a very difficult time writing something that’s a product that other people would mess with. [W]riting is very difficult for me and it takes a lot of time and energy. And once I’ve done it, it’s my thing.”

DFW

It’s sad to see such a talented wordsmith go so early as I’m sure there were countless annoying, (but only annoying because of the blatantly obvious genius) brilliant, ironic, stories to be written.

RIP David Foster Wallace (February 21, 1962 – September 12, 2008)

 You are missed.

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