Norman Mailer discussion

Farewell, Sweet Maniac

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message 1: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:40PM) (new)

brian   so norman mailer...

you raging, drinking, fucking, shouting, wife-stabbing, head-butting, ear-biting, Gilmore-Girls-appearing, feminist-fighting, badass, motherfucking warrior.

you're dead.

it seems to me that your greatest novels (Ancient Evenings, Executioner's Song) and the way you chose to live your life can best be summed up by the campaign tagline for your 1969 run for NYC mayor: "No More Bullshit".

you pushed it just about as far as it would go; you took life by the ass and you fucked the shit out of it... and confronted with your own death, of which you spoke very casually and very frequently over the past year, your attitude is best summarized by leonardo da vinci's adage, "Just as a day well spent will bring a good night's sleep; a life well spent will bring a good death."

you are an inspiration. truly one of my personal heroes. thanks.

well... i'm actually very torn up over mailer's death. my thoughts are as muddled and vulgar and maudlin as the above posting...

so, c'mon... help me out and jump in and start some shit. mailer'd want it that way.

hate mailer? love him? his books? his films? fiction vs. non-fiction? his reputation? his ego? the lack of a nobel? the white negro? stabbing his wife? his literary feuds? feminism? ? Naked and the Dead? An American Dream? hitler? picasso? oswald? marilyn? his politics?

get in there!

message 2: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:40PM) (new)

Tosh This may not be the right moment but was Mailer into Sparks? No...yes? Anyway as I wrote to Brian early this morning Mailer seems to be the last of the liberal New York boho generation. It was a generation that was basically facing death and the height of the major changes in our culture. In essence he's very 20th Century.

I never read Mailer, but I am of the generation who saw him on every talk show possible during the 60's. You don't see authors on talk shows anymore. Johnny Carson would have Mailer, Gore, and Dick Cavett would have Mailer, Gore, and Burgress (A Clockwork Orange) as regular guess.

The 60's were a great time to see culture mixing it up - but that doesn't happen anymore. We have zillions of stations, but they basically show the same thing. What does this have to do with Mailer? Well, he is part of a generation and time in America when authors said something & people listened. A lot of them disagreed, but alas they were exposed to different ideas.

message 3: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new)

brian   if one clicks on the Ancient Evening icon on this club's home page one is whisked away to a very funny place. the place where a true work of literary genius is represented as 'out of print'. even funnier: all the one and all the five star ratings that dominate the page. this makes sense to me. the people who give it three... really? who are you? this book is - of course - deserving of five stars. but i also love anyone who gives it one.

message 4: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new)

Tosh Mailer a jazzier? Did he write anything on jazz? That would be interesting to me.

message 5: by Paige (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new)

Paige Brian, your tribute is, well, fucking brilliant.

I have a confession (I know you'll be all over this, Manny). Mailer's writing in general doesn't appeal to me. I'd like it to. Honest. Except in one arena -- boxing. He articulated the appeal of the sweet science perfectly, and I can't imagine the era of Ali without Mailer.

message 6: by Paige (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new)

Paige Ah, such a short-lived career I've had!

message 7: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new)

brian   christopher hitchens on mailer. well worth reading:

message 8: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new)

Meghan On CNN the day Mailer died, they interviewed Tom Wolfe. And they mentioned that Wolfe criticized Mailer for "lifting" his story (An American Dream) from Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment.

I haven't read this book so I was wondering--can you see the parallels?

Wolfe stated that this criticism also meant that Mailer's work should be ranked up there with Dostoyevsky's and that they have since resolved this semi-feud.

Also wondering, is/are there any other modern American writers that you would put in Mailer's class OR have similar writing styles? (Sorry, but I'm a Mailer newbie--just started reading The Executioner's Song. But his genius is apparent at first bite.)

message 9: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

Tosh I never read a word from Mailer's pen. But in my age bracket he is such a well-known figure via the popular media of the 60's and 70's. So I wouldn't know about the jazz references in his work.

message 10: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

brian   meghan: what i find interesting about Mailer's writing style, is that, for the most part, he doesn't have one fixed style. his goal, as i see it, was to allow each book to dictate the style. as opposed to, say, hemingway, who'd tell any story through a distinctly hemingwayesque prism, mailer tried to tell each story differently. while Executioner's Song is written with spare clean precise prose to match the language spoken by its inhabitants, Ancient Evenings is lush and colorful and Armies of the Night is verbose and, at least to me, overwritten and annoying. the point of Castle in the Forest, according to Mailer, was to write a book about Germany in a distinctly German voice...

american writers in his class... as far as his contemporaries, i'd have to say - and this will surely incur the wrath of manny - that mailer is not a novelist on par with (his other fellow 20th century jewish american writers) saul bellow or philip roth. mailer's prose can't touch bellow's or roth's and roth's overall construction and execution of the form is something mailer, in my opinion, could never touch. that said, i prefer mailer to bellow and rank mailer alongside roth in my personal canon if only for ancient evenings, executioner's, his wonderful essays, and his overall lust for life (as opposed to roth's almost dostoyevskian pessimism and obsession with death...)

in terms of newer american writers... as obvious as this is, the only ones that come to mind that compare to mailer are pynchon and delillo. perhaps someone else can throw out some more names? does mailer have any true heirs?

and yeah... i think American Dream is a total piece of shit. schematic and obvious and gratuitous and boring. other people love it... not me. it certainly has similarities to Crime and Punishment, and i'm sure mailer intended it that way, but i choose not to insult a great book by comparing it to mailer's worst.

message 11: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

brian   yeah, fuck tom wolfe.

but, with all due respect: you have your head up your ass regarding roth's 'scope'.

both roth and mailer's main subject was, if i may reduce a combined hundred years of writing to one word, America.

forgetting roth's book on baseball, his book on nixon, on israel/palestine, his book on an alternative future had lindbergh been president, etc... let's just consider his 'American' trilogy.

shit, manny- the scope of that was meant to parallel (i think it exceeds) dos passos's earlier USA trilogy. it sets out to do nothing less than offer an alternative history to the latter half of the 20th century. i could go on and on about what's encompassed in this epic trilogy, but i'd rather you read them and get a full sense of 'scope'. you should start with American Pastoral (a book written before 9/11 about, yes, terrorism and how and what 60's leftism has morphed into) and make your way through I Married a Communist and on to the weakest of the bunch (but still damn good) The Human Stain -

mailer was obsessed with seeing america through biography, through the individual's eye, through another's story... roth was interested in the cultural forces which determine america's fate and destiny. while mailer was more expansive (leaving behind America for Egypt, Germany, etc.), i believe that roth delved deeper into his subject matter.

or, perhaps, to tie this into a recent War and Peace posting i wrote, i subscribe to the 'hive mind' theory of history over the 'great man' theory. mailer - i'd have to believe - would disagree with me... while roth would probably lean my way.

and, yes, roth is limited by his 'jewish' perspective. but just as ralph ellison is limited by his 'black' perspective, or visconti by his 'italian' perspective... to the untrained eye there doesn't seem much difference between, say, Blue Velvet and Mulhollad Drive, does there? to the lynch and/or cinema aficionado, however, it's apples and oranges... i think, in that roth doesn't take his stories to egypt or germany or foggy bottom and that he doesn't tell them through picasso's or oswald's or marilyn's eyes, it might be harder for you to notice the sheer scope involved, and the huge leap thematically and stylistically in roth's work over the years...

message 12: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:43PM) (new)

Meghan I find it interesting that you wrote:

mailer was obsessed with seeing america through biography, through the individual's eye, through another's story

(Excuse my ignorance) but does Mailer have a biography out? I would think with this work spanning decades someone would have wrote one. If so, is there any particular one that stands out as being the best? (I ask because I would like to learn more about him and his work. It's just starting to hit me that we will be losing more of this generation of great thinkers who made such an impact on our society.)

Also, I know this is a Mailer group - but I can see what makes him great. I've tried to read a Roth book and never finished. I have a couple more of his on my "to-read" list. But what makes Roth a modern classic?

message 13: by D. J. (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

D. J. | 1 comments I have never read any Mailer. As such, I'm not quite sure why Brian invited me to join the group. Perhaps he thought I had read Mailer.

However, I did enjoy his recent interviews in the Paris Review and the New Yorker (in which he discussed his new theology). But, that really is as far as my Mailer knowledge extends.

No offense to anyone in this group, but I have no idea when I'll ever get to reading Mailer. I have a stack of books beside my bed and on my bookshelf that need attention... so I think Mailer will have to wait...

message 14: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

Tosh Cal, please correct me if I am wrong, but you don't like Philip Roth or Tom Wolfe. Correct? You were sort of holding back your feelings about those two writers. Please feel free to expose your feelings here on this site.

Eventually I think I am going to read the Oswald book by Mailer. I think he is the most fascinating character to come out of America in the 20th Century.

message 15: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:45PM) (new)

brian   cal: i responded to your post and assumed that, as it wasn't to your liking, you -- as you have been known to do -- complained to the higher-ups and had it removed.

both our posts are gone.

if you didn't do it... i'm not sure what happened here.

message 16: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:45PM) (new)

Meghan Great! Thanks Manny! I will be searching at B&N tomorrow for it.

message 17: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:45PM) (new)

Meghan PS. Someone posted on my other club that Charlie Rose will be doing a show on Mailer tonight. Check your PBS listings.

message 18: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:46PM) (new)

Tosh Dick Cavett, Gore, Janet and ....Norman of course:

message 19: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:46PM) (new)

brian   ah... i really hate what you wrote. seriously.

your higher standards for 'literary' people is utter nonsense. this site is great because it's all represented: there are some truly brainy threads all over this site, as there are tons of threads involving great (yes, as in fun and enjoyable) juvenile antics... i love that i can discourse on tolstoy's philosophy of history on my W & P thread, and then jump over to a discussion of a light-hearted television show on my gilmour girls thread and then leap over to manny's On the Road page for some good old-fashioned mud-slinging. if you are so disappointed by the lack of standards, then, as i've repeatedly told you... stop coming here.

and let's not forget, cal, that you've certainly posted your share of not very nice stuff directly aimed at specific individuals.

it's the arrogance ('oh so very American') and condescension (calling us 'fucking illiterate' for discussing cinema on a book website) and generalizations that is the most offensive. i'm willing to bet that i, all illiterate and juvenile and american, have offended less people than you have, my 'deliberate thinking and writing' friend...

message 20: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:47PM) (new)

Kimley Hmmm Cal, I just read that Cavett blog post that Tosh kindly provided for us and I'd have to say that I don't think etiquette or the lack thereof has anything to do with age/generation. Those old boys knew how to sling some serious shit! And wasn't it wonderful?

message 21: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:47PM) (new)

brian   thanks kimley.

now PISS OFF!!!!


message 22: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:47PM) (new)

Kimley OK, I'll be Janet here...

message 23: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:48PM) (new)

Tosh I actually saw the show and it's talk shows like the Cavett where I was introduced by Mailer in his role as the 'writer.' There was David Suskind (very New York type of chat show), and even Johnny Carson would have Capote, Mailer, Vidal, etc. on the show to mix it up. I can't imagine Jay Leno having an author on his show!

But yes insulting in public is totally different than insulting one in private. Private is bad manners! When one writes for an online board like this - one is doing it for the public. In a sense it is basically theater.

message 24: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:48PM) (new)

brian   so...

what it seems like you're saying, cal, is that i'm Mailer and you're Flanner.

fair enough.

and, yeah, kimley, thanks. the old guys were simply HORRIBLE to one another! it's like people who thinks politics has only recently become such a dirty game... shit, if you read some of john adams writings or the smear campaign waged against alexander hamilton... it makes the swift-boaters look like angels.

in short: flag me or attack me... i will not stop the mud-slinging. i will, however, engage in it only with people who either 1) enjoy it (manny, kimley, etc) or 2) claim not to enjoy it but do it themselves (cal)...


message 25: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:48PM) (new)

Kimley Hey, I thought I was Flanner! But yes, perhaps Cal has better manners than I do... Though it isn't my style to lob names necessarily, I do enjoy engaging in a heated debate and I certainly don't mind if Brian tells me to "piss off" or if Manny calls me a philistine - big kisses to all of you!

But my point really was just that I don't believe etiquette is the domain of any "literary elite" or any particular age/generation or any other broad category that one may choose.

And I do think that it is just damn fun to see some well crafted vitriol thrown back and forth. I would love to see shows like this Cavett show but nowadays everything is so sanitized and edited. So, Mailer made an ass of himself. Do any of us respect him any the less? And I do believe Janet had a damn good time especially seeing as she came out on top of that big steaming pile. Yes, as Tosh says, it is theater!

message 26: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:48PM) (new)

brian   viva la kimley!

big smooches.

message 27: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:48PM) (new)

Kimley A shameless plug - my dad, a boxing writer himself and a big Mailer fan wrote about a Mailer encounter on the NY Times website comments (#24 Joe Rein):

message 28: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:49PM) (new)

brian   thanks for that, kimley. it's fantastic. i see your pop joined us...

welcome to the group, mr. rein... i assume you've read The Fight, Mailer's book on the rumble in the jungle.... any thoughts?

message 29: by Joe (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:51PM) (new)

Joe Rein | 1 comments No need for formalities, Brian. A simple Your Eminence will be fine.

Your opening paragraph of the thread nailed Mailer perfectly:

‘you raging, drinking, fucking, shouting, wife-stabbing, head-butting, ear-biting, Gilmore-Girls-appearing, feminist-fighting, badass, motherfucking warrior’

Under all the soaring syntax, Mailer was a street fighter that wanted to grab you by the throat.

All I remember about “The Fight, I’m embarrassed to say, is that I was in London (still on New York time) on business and almost needed toothpicks to keep my eyes open to see the fight at a movie theatre -- with all of the delays -- after 2 A.M.

It was an unbelievable ending, but out-of-it as I was, it was more acknowledgment than visceral.

message 30: by Frederick (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:54PM) (new)

Frederick Here is a link to William F. Buckley's column of November 14th. He, of course, was Mailer's political opposite, but I was not surprised to learn that Buckley knew Mailer fairly well.

message 31: by Richard (new)

Richard Fulgham (richardlee) | 1 comments I'm 61 and maybe the oldest person here. I was a personal friend of Norman -- we corresponded 37 years, up until a few months before his sad demise.

I talked to Norman near the end. His last words to me were, "Those fights were real."

What he was referring to, I think, were the insinuations I'd made in a letter that he'd probably staged those fights -- like biting Rip Torn's earlobe off during the filming of "Maidenstone" and his infamous feud with Gore Vidal, back when it wasn't cool to be gay. (I ain't.)

I read all your comments and had fun -- like reliving the last half of the 20th Century in America.

Mailer's person and his books are proof of his love affair with America. I was his apprentice and I don't know if I've failed miserably or if the country has changed so radically that authors, especially heterosexual white males, are irrelevant to this generation. I suspect failure is word for me . . . .

But then I knew a genius and we wrote to each other and eventually talked eyeball to eyeball together. I knew genius.

In this sad America of today, with its bloated greedy corporate and stock executives; selfish, power obcessed females; and pussy-whipped rats once called MEN.

Yep, those fights were real. The fight today is to persist until the cycle turns. A new world is crawling out its cocoon. "What foul beast," asked Yeats, "It's time come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?"

Read the last paragraph of "Armies of the Night", I humbly suggest. I'll see if I can find it online and put it in a comment here.

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