Review: Keep This Quiet! – Margaret A. Harrell

“This is my life,

I’m satisfied.

So watch it, babe.

Don’t try to keep me tied.”

And I Like It –JeffersonAirplane

In the ever expanding list of biographies and memoirs about Hunter S. Thompson, this latest offering, Keep This Quiet! by Margaret A. Harrell, is quite simply a breath of fresh air. This is by no means intended as a slight against previous publications, the majority of which are solid and have contributed much to our understanding of Hunter S. Thompson – the man and the myth. However, what sets Keep This Quiet! apart is the extent to which Harrell explores the question of identity and myth, in her quest to simultaneously answer questions concerning her own character and that of one Hunter S. Thompson. As Harrell writes early on – “Who was he? There was no indication how complicated that answer was.”

Keep This Quiet! is a fascinating memoir in this regard, one that is multi-faceted in terms of Harrell’s own journey of self-discovery, both in a personal and artistic sense and the manner in which this is mirrored by the events of the period, with the tumultuous Sixties marking a nation tragically losing its innocence courtesy of the assassins bullet and the toil of war. It is also, of course, a time of exuberant creativity and this is evident throughout, with Harrell also detailing her relationship with “poète maudit” Jan Mensaert andGreenwich Village “poet genius” Milton Klonsky. Working at Random House placed Harrell at the centre of a literary world and this is reflected by the many different characters that make an appearance – from Hunter’s oldest friends William Kennedy and David Pierce to non other than Oscar Zeta Acosta, of whom Harrell includes rare letters that he sent to her concerning getting published at Random House.

It is Harrell’s insight into the development of Thompson both as an author and a character that truly set this memoir apart. There are two quotes in particular that illustrate this understanding – the first is a quote of Thompson’s that Harrell singles out as key to understanding his motivation as an author (incidentally one that I have also identified in my PhD – a nice bit of synchronicity):

            “The psychology of imposition…the need to amount to something”…”if only for an instant, the image of the man is imposed on the chaotic        mainstream of life and it remains there forever: order out of chaos, meaning out of meaninglessness.”

The above quote comes from a letter in The Proud Highway and Harrell is absolutely correct in singling it out for its importance. As Harrell states – “Like Faulkner, Hunter wanted to leave his life in stone tablets, mark time with a sign KILROY WAS HERE.” To understand this in relation to Hunter and how it shaped his creative development is absolutely essential.

In closing, this book is a joy to read, particularly for anyone that has that urge to express themselves through the creative arts in all their forms. In terms of its importance to the Hunter S. Thompson world I would have to say that there are not many other books out there that have the same intimate understanding of the man behind the myth. Keep This Quiet is not just a reflection on the past but also a rediscovery of that period, with a new understanding of the events and the people that populated that particular corner of the era of rapid change and growth, one of both personal discovery and cultural revolution, whose effects to this day are still rippling across the consciousness of the American psyche.

PS: I meant to post this review ages ago but I have been crazy crazy busy with my PhD. I hope to also post a review of the upcoming record from Paris Records – The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved and also report on the trip of a wayward American in South America. Stay tuned!

Animals, Whores & Dialogue Review

 

If you want to know why Animals, Whores & Dialogue stands out from all the other documentary movies about Hunter S. Thompson, take one look at the cover of the DVD and you will find the answer. The image used is that of Hunter sitting in front of his typewriter, at work on his Hey Rube column for ESPN, which encapsulates the very essence of this documentary. The previous offering from Wayne Ewing, the rollicking Breakfast with Hunter, opted for a cover featuring the infamous Gonzo logo, which similarly reflected the direction of the film. That is not to say that the first instalment presented an unbalanced portrait of Hunter, but rather there was a mixture of both man and myth. Contemplative moments at Owl Farm were counterbalanced by the more hectic elements of life on the road, with Hunter living up to his Raoul Duke persona. Read more

The Rum Diary Screenplay? (Updated)

Hey folks,

So I was just browsing Amazon.co.uk and I came across this – The Rum Diary: Based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson. The author is listed as Bruce Robinson and it is 160 pages in length, due to be published by Vintage on September 1st 2011. What really caught my eye though is the synopsis:

It’s 1960. In a highrise hotel not far from the beaches of San Juan, a man is recovering from an animal of a hangover. Paul Kemp is an alcoholic journalist who’s barely seen better days, arriving at the only job he can get: writing horoscopes for failing rag El News. His fellow hacks are mostly crazy drunks on the verge of quitting, so Kemp fits in perfectly. But then he meets the impossibly gorgeous Chenault and her flashy boyfriend Sanderson. Kemp soon finds himself in way over his head, party to shady business deals, caught up in car chases with enraged Puerto Ricans, and experimenting with a hitherto unknown hallucinogen, which will eventually transform Kemp into the kind of journalist known to the world as Gonzo.

Two things – you can pretty much take the above as the plot of the film and having read a 2006 draft of the script it matches it perfectly. Secondly I noticed that this was put up last week on Amazon with a release date of next October. It was then pulled, before reappearing with this new release date. Sources have also indicated that the Dutch release date for the move, Nov. 2010, has now been put back to 2011. The Russian release date also appears to have been put back until 2011.

Damn, damn, damn.

R

UPDATE: The movie tie-in of The Rum Diary is still listed as having a September 2010 release. The UK release date for the movie is still slated as being September 2010. Not sure what to make of all this now to be honest. Amazon have been proven in the past to be incorrect with release dates. I guess we will have to be patient and see what happens.