Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer Dies and I Make a Confession

Literary icon Norman Mailer has died. I'm not sure what to say. I didn't like Norman Mailer.

OK - I know that's a terrible thing to say on the day a person's death is announced but the normal niceties are different for public figures (especially for ones who tried so hard to be public). It's also probably not a wise thing for me to admit given that I consider myself a pretty well read person and yet I've never read any of Mailer's books.

I have read some of Mailer's magazine articles and interviews. They didn't leave me very sympathetic to Mr. Mailer. Oh I'm sure I'll have people who tell me that I must read The Executioner's Song or The Naked and the Dead to truly understand his genius. I'm sorry but the "glory" of those books are lost to me for I doubt I could shake reading them in any but the voice of an egomaniac bully.

Probably a good part of my bias against Mailer comes from Mario Puzo. The character Osano in the book Fools Die is a thinly veiled sketch of Mailer. And from my vantage point it was not a flattering characterization.

Today I flipped open my copy of Fools Die and I came across this paragraph that seemed completely to the point. The narrator talks about an artist working toward "truth":
The truth was that you [the writer / artist] were like a safecracker fiddling with the dial and listening for the tumblers click into place. And after a couple of years the door might swing open and you could start typing. And the hell of it was that what was in the safe was most times all that valuable.
My prejudiced against Mailer probably stems from the fact that his ego never allowed him to see that his safe was sometimes empty. The mental image I have of Mailer is as a Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone's vault to see nothing inside but instead of admitting the vault was empty Mailer would go on about the metaphor of the vault as the emptiness of modern life and the coldness of a woman's bosom.

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