Vale Norman Mailer


I was doan The Gary on Norman Mailer the other day, Parishioners –

part of my ongoing general research –
diggan up all I could find,
learnan ’bout the man…

When, all of a sudden,
he up & dies on me!

Alas, Parishioners,

one of our Literary Heroes has left us;

I pray this doesn’t happen to everyone I research…


widely known as a drinker and brawler, womanizer, political campaigner, social critic, talk-show guest, self-promoter and symbol of male chauvinism.

SF Chronicle
Scrappy, outspoken and built more like a dockworker than a pen-pusher, Mailer had speech mannerisms that were mesmerizing even if you didn’t always grasp what he was talking about.

The Guardian
Controversy dogged him at every step of his larger than life career, not least because Mailer held himself so openly in high regard

New York Times
Norman Mailer, Towering Writer With Matching Ego, Dies at 84


the stripes make Norman look taller

And check this out, Parishioners, A Dissenting Opinion (via A&L Daily) – this guy just pastes Mailer – it’s a great read!

This is not to say that Mailer escaped criticism. His second and third novels, The Deer Park (1955) and Barbary Shore (1961), were widely attacked, as indeed was An American Dream (1965). An American Dream was the infamous novel in which the hero, Stephen Rojack, a savvy, tough-guy intellectual—just like Norman Mailer, you see—starts out by strangling his wife. He then walks downstairs and buggers his wife’s accommodating German maid, a former Nazi who declares, “I do not know why you have trouble with your wife. You are an absolute genius, Mr. Rojack.” (Buggery—another “B” to put alongside booze, boxing, bullfighting, and broads—was to become an obsession with Mailer.)

Then a reader comments:

Dear Mr. Kimball: This is remarkable. Mailer has been dead for less than 12 hours, and you’ve produced a 5300 word bombardment, complete with no fewer than 7 extended quotations and many more shorter one, covering his entire career. Fess up: how much of this had been written before Mailer died, awaiting the day when it could be fired, in the face of numerous hosannas?

* * *

In November 1960, Norman Mailer first tried his hand at a genre that would come to define his career. This is Mailer’s debut into the world of political journalism, a sprawling classic examining John F. Kennedy. From the worlds cultural bible – Esquire:

Superman Comes to the Supermarket

And then there was Kennedy, the edge of the mystery. But a sketch will no longer suffice.The afternoon he arrived at the convention from the airport, there was of course a large crowd on the street outside the Biltmore, and the best way to get a view was to get up on an outdoor balcony of the Biltmore, two flights above the street, and look down on the event. One waited thirty minutes, and then a honking of horns as wild as the getaway after an Italian wedding sounded around the corner, and the Kennedy cortege came into sight, circled Pershing Square, the men in the open and leading convertibles sitting backwards to look at their leader, and finally came to a halt in a space cleared for them by the police in the crowd. The television cameras were out, and a Kennedy band was playing some circus music.

One saw him immediately. He had the deep orange-brown suntan of a ski instructor, and when he smiled at the crowd his teeth were amazingly white and clearly visible at a distance of fifty yards. For one moment he saluted Pershing Square, and Pershing Square saluted him back, the prince and the beggars of glamour staring at one another across a city street, one of those very special moments in the underground history of the world, and then with a quick move he was out of his car and by choice headed into the crowd instead of the lane cleared for him into the hotel by the police, so that he made his way inside surrounded by a mob, and one expected at any moment to see him lifted to its shoulders like a matador being carried back to the city after a triumph in the plaza.

All the while the band kept playing the campaign tunes, sashaying circus music, and one had a moment of clarity, intense as déjà vu, for the scene which had taken place had been glimpsed before in a dozen musical comedies; it was the scene where the hero, the matinee idol, the movie star comes to the palace to claim the princess, or what is the same, and more to our soil, the football hero, the campus king, arrives at the dean’s home surrounded by a court of open-singing students to plead with the dean for his daughter’s kiss and permission to put on the big musical that night.

And suddenly I saw the convention, it came into focus for me, and I understood the mood of depression which had lain over the convention, because finally it was simple: the Democrats were going to nominate a man who, no matter how serious his political dedication might be, was indisputably and willy-nilly going to be seen as a great box-office actor, and the consequences of that were staggering and not at all easy to calculate.

Mr Mailer liked it hot & preferred blondes

The Guest From HellSavoring Norman Mailer’s legendary appearance on The Dick Cavett Show. Mailer’s most legendary advertisement for himself aired live on Dec. 2, 1971, on The Dick Cavett Show.

Mailer swaggered out imitating a fighter’s coiled ease, a superstar in a dark suit and black leather boots, angel-headed under Bob Dylan curls. He’d come from a cocktail party and boasted he’d been drinking, and he also looked pretty baked. He had head-butted Vidal in the green room. He bounced right into a performance that was better than some of his journalism and all of his novels. Everything he learned from studying Ali (rhythm and rope-a-dope) and Chaplin (grace and grandiosity) and Marilyn (eyelash-batting) went to use.

Norm loves a claret!

His Last Rolling Stone Interview

You were on assignment with Hunter S. Thompson in Zaire in 1974 to cover the Muhammad Ali – George Foreman fight. What was that like?

Zaire was fascinating. There were a great many of us writers there who loved prizefights and were absolutely, completely attached to the idea of the fight. Then Hunter came in, and it was so typical of Hunter: Here was the convocation of experts, and his experience throughout most of his life was that convocations of experts were concentrations of bullshit. He figured he was going to ace the whole goddamn thing. He had a basic knowledge that he wasn’t going to learn more about prizefights in a week or two than the rest of us had already known for years, and so he had to make an end run around us. And what he decided to do was to see the fight with Mobutu, who was the dictator of Zaire. He made a real effort to get together with Mobutu – and failed.

I saw him on the plane home, and there he was, full of good spirit and knocking down a great many beers in a row. I remember that in terms of his immense adaptability – he’d take huge risks, and if they blew up on him, so what? There was always another risk to take, and he move on. But that was probably one of the least successful ventures he went on.

Did you follow his writing?

[Fear and Loathing in] Las Vegas is – I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, but it’s a hell of a book. Everything he did, in a way, is a hell of a book. He broke so many rules that I would get dizzy trying to evaluate him. I didn’t always approve of the rules he was breaking, since I was much more of an established writer than he was, but his daring always appealed to me. And he’s one of those people who you could read a page of his work and be turned on by it, and you can’t say that about too many writers. It’s a rare page of Hunter’s that won’t turn you on.

nobody can abide that tie

Norman Mailer, (1923-…), is an American author. Critics have sometimes attacked his work as sensational or self-indulgent. But Mailer’s readers usually find his essays and novels fascinating and disturbing because they mirror the underside of modern culture. Mailer has analyzed the myths and unconscious impulses that underlie human behavior. He often stresses sex and violence, but he uses these elements for artistic purposes and not merely to shock. Mailer is widely regarded as one of the most ambitious, provocative American writers since the mid-1900’s.

And, again, from the worlds cultural bible – Esquire:

In April 1953, Norman Mailer wrote his first story for Esquire magazine, a short piece of fiction calledThe Language of Men.”

Here’s Norm’s infamous piece The White Negro,
generously reprinted by Dissent Magazine (they first published it in 1957)

* * *

Terribly wanky interview with The Paris Review

The Art of Fiction No. 193, Issue 181, Summer 2007

We went for supper together the night before the interview began, to Michael Shay’s, a nearby restaurant that specializes in oysters. Mailer knows the waiters by their first names and he knows the menu even better. He usually takes his oyster shells home because he likes cleaning them, looking at them, and sometimes drawing on them. “Look here,” he said, lifting one. “An oyster shell quite often looks like the face of a Greek god.”

There was something Zeus-like about Mailer himself as he pondered my questions, yet at times he was as earthy as Studs Lonigan. His blue eyes shone when he told me how often a man needs to pee at his age. “At George Plimpton’s memorial service,” he said, “in Saint John the Divine, I suddenly had to go and I knew I wouldn’t make it down the aisle. So I went into a corridor at the side and there I met Philip Roth. Sometimes I have to go into a telephone kiosk to pee, Phil, I said. You just can’t wait at my age. I know, said Roth—it’s
the same with me. Well, I said, you always were precocious.”

* * *

There was also a blog entitled Dear Mr Mailer
which published letters a guy wrote to Mr Mailer –

but the link is dead & I can’t find any trace…

the pipes make Norman look smaller

Personally, An American Dream
– widely acknowledged as one of his least successful works (vide supra, ‘Tish) –
had a rather strong effect on me.

I was working at the University at the time;
ministering to the Heathen,
writing up my thesis
and spending most of my free time reading –

I went from Pynchon (*wow*!!!) to Barth, Keysey, Chandler & Hammett,
re-read Heller & Vonnegurt
and gradually began attacking The Great American Oeuvre –

Hemingway, Faulkner, Miller, Dos Passos, James, Fitzgerald –
I was In Love again!

Never before nor after have I stuffed my head with so much!

Science, Literature, Teaching and Psychology –

and I *still* found time
to indulge my new-found appreciation of fine wine,
enjoy the fine music scene of Perth – from improv to rawk to Musica Viva concerts –
and mess around with dames…

Those were the days, Parishioners;
THOSE were The Days!

* * *

Many years later,
in an obscure Portuguese colony,
I chanced upon a copy of Harlot’s Ghost
[now you know, Parishioners!]

and devoured it!
(Yes, ‘Tish, there is buggery within – he calls it cornholing)

I read it ’til my fingers bled,
I awoke with it ‘pon my chest

When I came to
I realised I had lost about two weeks of my So-Called-Life…

and Things Were Different Now!

I returned to Civilisation
with a fresh outlook and renewed vigour!

And now

I am reminded, Parishioners,

that things





* * *


The Oracle says that Ray Liotta has a Norman Mailer Number of 2.

Ray Liotta was in “Wetten, dass..?” (1981) {Wetten, dass..? aus Hannover (#1.88)} with Thomas Gottschalk (I), Thomas Gottschalk (I) was in “Berlin Mitte” (1999) {Sprachlose Freundschaft – Wie fremd wird uns Amerika?} with Norman Mailer


Ray can only be number two

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  1. […] recently paid tribute to Mr Norman Mailer, Parishioners. He was a man of Great […]

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