Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Ticket to the Circus: A Memoir” as Want to Read:
A Ticket to the Circus: A Memoir
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Ticket to the Circus: A Memoir

3.49  ·  Rating Details ·  583 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
A great American love story, this warm, funny, revealing memoir introduces the world to Norman Mailer’s greatest inspiration, his wife of more than thirty years. Like Zelda Fitzgerald before her, Norris Church Mailer has led a life as large and as colorful as her husband’s—and every bit as engaging.

Growing up a strict Free Will Baptist in the South of the 1950s, Norris Chu
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Random House
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Ticket to the Circus, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Ticket to the Circus

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 03, 2010 Trish rated it it was ok
I never write reviews, but I feel compelled to write one for this. This book has gotten rave reviews and I cannot figure out why. Norris Mailer comes across as selfish, deluited and as a doormat to her husband of more than 30 years. The man fucked everything that moved and she just put up with it. And claims theirs was a great love affair. She put her wants and desires before her kids and chose a father who wasn't a very good role model. Of course it's not my business. I don't know her and certa ...more
Paula Gallagher
Apr 16, 2010 Paula Gallagher rated it liked it
I will forever be haunted by images of Mailer's hairy body and soccerball-like stomach.
Jun 13, 2010 Michelle rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
Fascinating memoir from Norman Mailer's sixth (and longest-running) wife. This is a woman destined to sleep with greatness, I think, given as a small town Arkansas teacher she had sex with both Norman Mailer and Bill Clinton. I love how, many decades later, after the Lewinsky scandal broke some guy says to Norris, guess you're the only person in Arkansas he never slept with and she has to admit, "I’m afraid he got us all." In any case, I enjoyed her writing style and the ups and downs involved w ...more
Anne Milford
Apr 20, 2010 Anne Milford rated it really liked it
I have been on a huge memoir kick this year. I saw an article about Norris Church (and this book) in the NYT magazine and was shocked by a few stories she shared about her husband, the late Norman Mailer. It was classic "Wrong Guy" behavior. What was more fascinating to me was how sweet and likable Norris was. Who was this person who was able to draw 7 step-children together from 5 different mothers and create a family?

I really enjoyed this book. Although I would not want anyone I cared about to
Jun 28, 2010 Judith rated it liked it
This is a memoir by the last of the many wives of Norman Mailer. It was interesting and fun for a light read. What's really amazing about this book is that it's not a "tell-all", though it clearly could have been. She saw his many flaws, but she also saw his greatness and she loved him, though he cheated on her (well, duh.)
They had such an interesting life and she describes their adventures, including a trip to Cuba and a day spent with Castro, as well as parties with Jackie Kennedy and all of
Nicole Rea
Nov 22, 2010 Nicole Rea rated it liked it
Kind of ridiculous at times; she talks about minute details of her life that I can't imagine anyone would really have any desire to know. But maybe that was just me. She also seems to give Norman Mailer *WAY TOO MUCH* slack for his perpetual infidelities and overall asshole-ness. He comes across as a coddled child, but she's okay with that apparently, because that's "just him." Gross.

An interesting read, though, overall. Her writing style is incredibly conversational (lots of asides in parenthes
Jan 01, 2011 Mary rated it it was ok
Autogiography has to be the most difficult genre to write. Too easily, writers abuse the first person singular, and "Then I did," or a variation on same can start every sentence. Ticket to the Circus suffers from this problem. It's an interesting story, but there is *WAY TOO MUCH* of the first personal pronoun. The author's husband, Norman Mailer, pronounced the book *not as bad as I thought it would be."* The words of a very loving husband. A tougher critic would have been more harsh. There's a ...more
Mar 15, 2011 Kim rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I blab blab blab I'm so wonderful and famous....then I blab blab blab....blab I sleep with Norman Mailer....I'm a model blab blab blab.....I met blab blab....Then I blab blab....I was so clever blab blab blab

The apartment was a circus with a trapeze in the living room and a bunch of kids raising themselves. She was just the last in a long line of young women he used and discarded. It was very sad to me. I couldn't read anymore, it isn't a love story about a great man or a memoir of an interestin
Lynn Kearney
May 19, 2010 Lynn Kearney rated it liked it
If I needed reminding why I've always disliked Norman Mailer, this book does it for me. She, on the other hand, is interesting, likeable and bright, apart from her major lapse in judgment in marrying N.M.
May 11, 2010 Jill rated it really liked it
Fascinating memoir, and it even made me like Norman Mailer a tiny bit more than before (which still isn't much).
Mar 27, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
Norris Church Mailer is a lot of things: a daughter, a mother, a wife, a student, a teacher, an artist, a model, a writer, a scenester, a cancer survivor. In her honest, revealing memoir A Ticket to the Circus, Norris reflects on her youth in Arkansas, her marriage at age 20 and then meeting and marrying writer Norman Mailer at age 26. Young Norris [then Barbara] dreamed a lot and knew that she wouldn’t stay in Arkansas forever though she enjoyed being close to her family and loved the state. Sh ...more
Oct 22, 2012 Danny rated it really liked it
You have to give the lady credit. When Stormin Norman, her sometimes intimidating great American novelist husband, tried to edit her writing, she wouldn't let him. "We were too different."

And yet, her love for him is still believable and authentic, bound at the core by a great sex life, she never hesitates to tell us. Mailer's voice is questing. Norris Church's is old fashioned, full of the kind of common sense the Arkansas daughter of a heavy machinery instructor would have. We meet all kind
Nov 16, 2014 John rated it it was ok
Who could imagine an autobiography from the sixth of self-proclaimed chauvinist/egotist Norman Mailer's wives could merit a read? Mailer stumbled into half a dozen ill-fated marriages and sired an extended family so vast that he ran out of names (hence one offspring named "Buffalo") while carrying on multiple affairs, trysts and liasons. Now that Mailer's collected letters have hit the best seller list, maybe this book by the Last Mailer Lady - the late Norris Church - will garner some attention ...more
Carl Rollyson
Aug 02, 2012 Carl Rollyson rated it liked it
In 1974, the stunning Barbara Norris, then 26, met the controversial 52-year-old leonine man of letters. A divorcee with a young son, she was teaching art in a small Arkansas town. She had studied writing with Norman Mailer's World War II buddy, Francis Gwaltny, and she had had her brush with fame dating the state's governor, Bill Clinton.

It seems nearly everyone thought she was out of her depth when she encouraged Mailer's attentions. For his part, Mailer found her beauty breathtaking and encou
Oct 28, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes memoirs
Recommended to Carol by: Oprha
I liked this book a lot and was sorry to learn from Google that she is also deceased since 2010. If she were still living I would share my thoughts and comments with her. She and Norman both had so many medical issue and emotional issues to work through but they hung in there with each other to the very end. Pardon my ignorance but I had heard of Norman Mailer but didn't know why he was famous. That is probably because I'm not very much into politics if at all. Just enough feel like I know what ...more
May 07, 2010 Diane rated it liked it
Recommended to Diane by: Oprah Magazine April 2010
I read about this book in the April edition of Oprah magazine. All I needed to see was "Ticket is at once a glimpse into New York's social and LITERARY whirl...." and I knew I had to read it.

I finally read this book! Again wishing that Goodreads had a half star rating, because I would give it a 3 1/2 star. Anyway, I think it takes a lot of guts to write a memoir. You end up baring your soul and wonder, first of all, will anyone want to buy it? And if yes, what will they think of me? And IMO, the
Jul 11, 2010 Melissa rated it liked it
I liked this book overall. It is well written and made interesting simply by the telling of this woman's tale - even had she not married Norman Mailer. I have two major criticisms: Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote a blurb for the front and back covers and I honestly thought, if she is giving this book such a glowing review that says quite a bit and it is worth the read. Then 200 pages into it I find out that she is one of the author's best friends!! In my mind that completely discounts anything she mi ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Jun 16, 2010 Bookmarks Magazine rated it really liked it
Shelves: july-aug-2010
This candid, entertaining memoir proves that Norman Mailer wasn't the only talented writer in the family. Norris unveils her life story with warmth, wit, and grit, despite some occasionally precious prose. While a few critics were disturbed by Norris's stated willingness to stifle her individuality and ambitions to please her temperamental husband, her frankness in sharing many of the grim and often humiliating particulars won them over, and she provides plenty of juicy details about Norman and ...more
Mar 25, 2010 Angela rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: married people, novelists, writers, people interested in literature and history and memoirs
Honest, gripping memoir from the last wife of Norman Mailer who, by herself, is an amazingly talented artist, actress, and writer.

Theirs is not the all-American love story, but it is an accurate portrayal of two people struggling to reconcile their differences, forgive betrayals, and embrace each other "for better or for worse."

The humanity in this book is worth reading. Norris has a gift of the artist's eye for the perfect image. Her style is very different than Mailer's, but it is engaging and
I might be in the minority here, but I couldn't even finish this book. Reading the chapters where she first gets together with Mailer is like when one of your friends is dating a douche and you can't get her to stop - I wanted to scream at Norris "no, no, run the other way!" I have to admit that if I thought of Norris as a friend I wanted to help, there must have been some aspect of this book that was appealing, but that didn't make up for its shortcomings. Also, I found the tone of the book obn ...more
Mar 02, 2011 Rene rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The story was not at all what I was expecting, based on the title. However, having reached the end of the book, it's an apt title.
I was propelled through the story to the end, always curious as to what would happen, a little amazed/shocked/doubtful about attitudes toward sexual relationships and love. Norris often states how there were things she really despised about her husband, but there were more things she loved. She had a lot of stamina and personal strength to keep going throughout her li
Jan 21, 2012 Kim rated it really liked it
Norman Mailer was married six times and this book is written by his sixth and final wife Norris Church Mailer. I wasn't sure if I'd like this book (considering he's the author, not her). But I was pleasantly surprised, the book was well written.

I thought this was a VERY entertaining and touching memoir written in an honest and frank voice.

Because of Norman's relentless cheating, some people did not like this book because they couldn't comprehend why Norris stayed with Norman -- but I disagree.
I took a long time reading this. Mostly because it was book and not audible and it is so very difficult to read and knit. That said I really liked it but not necessarily Churches style. I would have to read her novels to comment further. It is always fun to read details of famous peoples lives and the Mailers were and rubbed elbows with famous people from celebrity to politicians. Even criminals. It was also interesting to read of her life with Norman from her view. It is well known he was a "la ...more
Jessica Mccarthy
Jun 21, 2015 Jessica Mccarthy rated it it was ok
How do you make The Ramones, the Clintons, Hunter S. Thompson, Muhammad Ali, and Norman Mailer boring? Ask Norman's last wife. I read, and continued reading, and finished this book solely because I'm taking the Goodreads Reading Challenge and didn't want to waste the pages.

Even while slamming beers in the pool, I was annoyed and bored by this book. Mrs Mailer waxes on and on and on about being soooo pretty and how awkward and yet flattering it was when Gentleman A , B, C, F was soooo captivated
Terry Chartier
Jun 30, 2010 Terry Chartier rated it it was amazing
Great memoir..but I learned that Norman, although beloved as a writer, was stricken with a great propensity to whore around....Norris Church Mail introduced herself as "the last wife," she was the sixth wife of Norman's and who did little cheating of her own.

And yes, it was romantic in a old fashioned way, their first meeting and their long term epistolary relationship. That draws you in and started to think about how this woman made Norman a little more loveable.

It truly was a good read....and
May 01, 2010 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
After struggling to read a biography of Wallis Simpson--about whom I could find no redeeming qualities whatsoever--I picked this one up and found it much more enjoyable. Mailer, who died late last year after the book was published, was a much more likable, salt-of-the-earth heroine than Simpson and her memoir was fun and gossipy and self-deprecating without being the least bit catty. She seems like the stepmother that everyone would want to have (she was to Norman Mailer's seven children and had ...more
May 09, 2012 Althea rated it liked it
Norris Church Mailer must be a saint to have lived with Norman Mailer for thirty years or so. She comes off as a genuine, real-life small town girl who became famous mostly because of her marriage to a well-known writer. However, she did, in fact, have a career (or careers really) of her own. It's interesting to see how she handled it all, especially toward the end of Mailer's life when she was dealing with multiple cancers and at the same time taking care of her husband and her mother. She is a ...more
Rosie Beck
Jul 03, 2010 Rosie Beck rated it really liked it
An completely entertaining memoir of Norris Church Mailer, 7th wife of the brilliant but difficult Norman Mailer. They met when he was 52 and she- an artist from Arkansas- was 26. Their affair began when he was married to his 5th wife, and still carrying on with his eventual 6th wife of 3 days (Read to find out). With multiple children from multiple women, the literary/art scene in New York and worldwide, and a cast of characters too quirky to make up, she takes us through the 33 years they were ...more
Jul 10, 2011 Larissa rated it liked it
I sort of hate the Mailers as people. I don't agree with their lifestyle choices nor general attitude towards life, however, putting my personal feelings aside, it sure was interesting. I think most people actually live pretty interesting lives if you break it down by chronological anecdotes. It does sort of make me want to read Mailer's work--in all honesty, I never have. But based on what his 6th and final wife wrote about him, he must have a tremendous imagination. The personal photographs sp ...more
Jun 06, 2010 Deodand rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, usa
I admire the author's fantastic ability to compartmentalize her life. There are a lot of places where she recounts something that may not have agreed with her inner compass, and she finishes with "...but I don't think about that" or some variant. She doesn't seem concerned about rehashing things that happened in Norman Mailer's life previous to her arrival, or about providing excuses or insight about her own issues. These things kind of just happened.

She also seems to have had an epic amount of
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Teaching the Pig to Dance: A Memoir of Growing Up and Second Chances
  • Jeff Corwin: a Wild Life: The Authorized Biography
  • We'll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin' Show-Biz Saga
  • The Journals of Ayn Rand
  • In the Valley of the Kings: Howard Carter and the Mystery of King Tutankhamun's Tomb
  • Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer's
  • The Gates of November
  • The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century
  • Larry's Kidney: Being the True Story of How I Found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride, Skirting the Law to Get Him a Transplant--and Save His Life
  • Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings
  • Keeping the Feast: One Couple's Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy
  • Tip It!: The World According to Maggie
  • Mass Casualties: A Young Medic's True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq
  • Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
  • Mob Star: The Story of John Gotti
  • Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage
  • Chords of Strength: A Memoir of Soul, Song and the Power of Perseverance
Best known as the last spouse (and then widow) of writer Norman Mailer.
More about Norris Church Mailer...

Share This Book