Saeculum University Press, $17.95, 230 pages
Keep This Quiet! is a captivating and enlightening piece that teaches the reader more about its protagonists than they would ever learn on their own. Margaret A. Harrell tells her own story through the stories of three artists; men who had written impacts on people they weren’t acquainted with, and likely changed Harrell’s life more than any of them will ever know. Harrell takes the reader through her life from 1965 on, detailing her meetings and interactions with Hunter S. Thompson, Milton Klonsky, and Jan Mensaert along the way.
Most captivating are the various letters from Thompson, Klonsky, and Mensaert to Harrell, who includes everything from short quotes to help describe how and why they react, to large portions of the letters that tell you what was happening to both the author and Harrell at the time. Thompson’s letters are most intriguing, and give the reader insight into the mind of a widely admired artist. Harrell beautifully tells the story of how her relationships with the three men, predominantly Thompson, progressed, sharing intimate moments and keeping the reader turning the page.
To choose one portion that truly spoke to this reviewer is near impossible; Harrell’s memoir, from start to finish, is a series of moments that will speak to any artist, young or old, or any person in the midst of finding themselves. The book is a direct experience with Thompson, and Klonsky and Mensaert’s roles only enhance the trip Harrell takes the reader on. Keep This Quiet! is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of Thompson, an artist themselves, or is in search of their own life’s meaning.
Harrell quotes Thompson near the end of the book, from a letter to Jim Silberman that reads, “The job of a writer, it seems to me, is to focus very finely on a thing, a place, a person, act, phenomenon…and then, when the focus is right, to understand, and then render the subject of that focus in such a way that it suddenly appears in context – the reader’s context, regardless of who the reader happens to be, or where.” When any reader picks up Keep This Quiet! they’ll notice right away that Harrell does just that. Readers everywhere should do as Hunter S. Thompson once said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
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