Elizabeth Hein’s novel How to Climb the Eiffel Tower kept me up to 3 a.m. the other night. In it a first-hand narrator wittily and with vulnerability describes her successful battle with cancer as a young career woman. I wouldn’t have expected to be swept up in the topic, but she has a deft style and kept me reading and turning pages. Elizabeth has honored me by inviting me to contribute a Guest Blog, which you can read here. I took the occasion to write about relationships in the context of the Keep This Quiet! series. The blog will give you an overview. If you know a lot about my series or nothing at all, try checking it out.She has beautifully set up the text and multiple photos. Thanks, so much, Elizabeth. May many readers discover you.
My story on her Guest Blog begins like this:
The Balancing Act of Me
Elizabeth has written a lovely post about finding balance, and I’ve just finished reading How to Climb the Eiffel Tower, which I love—right from the title.
This guest post is about my Keep This Quiet! memoir series and one of its main themes, relationships. When I was in my middle twenties, I adventurously set out to work at Random House in New York City. That set the stage for meeting three dynamic, outspoken males, whom the first volume of my memoir is named for: Keep This Quiet! My Relationship with Hunter S Thompson, Milton Klonsky, and Jan Mensaert.
What brings all the varied material together in this four-volume memoir? Me, of course. When I started writing it in 2005, I rejected the idea of focusing entirely on Hunter Thompson, which might have made commercial sense, as he was quite well known as the flamboyant founder of Gonzo Journalism. And I had copy edited his first book, Hell’s Angels. I had all the related letters. Besides, I had permission to reprint them. But in the larger sense, I knew that wasn’t the deeper story. Why was I so affected by three powerful men at the same time? Not all in a romantic relationship at the same time. But I met them in a tightly packed period, as if a whirlwind had passed through in the middle 1960s. All three were writers, highly creative, and as my semi-romantic mentor, Milton Klonsky, would tell me, “I’m not one way in love and another way in everything else.” No, creative people would be a handful. The relationships would be challenging.
So I had a novelistic story. How to tell it? I was lucky enough to have a gifted woman friend who pressed me—insisted I put in passages, give details, that a reader would want to know. Forget that I was in the story. Tell it as I would a novel. And I knew she was right. This required distance and my novelist hat. I had to keep the pact with the reader, let the reader inside. As poet, Blake scholar, and NYC magazine contributor Milton Klonsky had also told me colorfully, “Denude yourself. I can dream as well as anyone.” So I was to tell the truth as I knew it.