November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer died.

Today.

Remember when he ran for Mayor?

I do.

Althouse in 1970, age 19

The idea was that NYC should be the 51st state. It'd be the 12th largest, you know. (In case you've been wondering how big a job it is to be mayor of NY.)

Sorry I don't have anything more to say about Norman Mailer. I've never read his books. I read the mean things Kate Millet wrote about him in "Sexual Politics," back around when that picture was taken of me. The man stabbed his wife and nearly killed her. Maybe I should have wanted to read what he had to say anyway — I've heard him interviewed on the radio and found him interesting — but I never did.

ADDED: Sorry, I read "The Executioner's Song." I even wrote an article about it, called "Standing, in Fluffy Slippers" (PDF).

AND: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking, but I'm surprised he says that I'm remembering Mailer "fondly." Anyway, he points to Roger Kimball's essay, and I was glad to see that because I'd just read Kimball's book "The Long March," which has a section on Mailer, and I was trying to remember exactly why Kimball heaped abuse on him. So let's read the essay (which tracks the book):
No one combined critical regard, popular celebrity, and radical chic politics with quite the same insouciance as did Mailer. From the late 1940s until the 1980s, he showed himself to be extraordinarily deft at persuading credulous intellectuals to collaborate in his megalomania. Although he modeled his persona on some of the less attractive features of Ernest Hemingway—booze, boxing, bullfighting, and broads—he managed to update that pathetic, shopworn machismo with some significant postwar embellishments: reefer, radicalism, and Reich, for starters. The glittering example of Mailer’s commercial success was obviously the cynosure that many aspiring writers set out to follow: his neat trick was to combine cachet with large amounts of cash....

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.) There are numerous Mailerian fingerprints in the novel. President Kennedy (“Jack”) calls to convey his condolences; Rojack’s wife is rumored to have had affairs with men high up in the British, American, and Soviet spy agencies; even Marilyn Monroe—who was to become another of Mailer’s notorious obsessions—makes a posthumous cameo appearance: when Rojack fantasizes about having a telephone conversation with a dead character, he reports that “the girls are swell. Marilyn says to say hello.” But the chief point of the book is that Rojack gets away with the murder. Such, Mailer wants us to believe, is the real if unacknowledged “American dream.”

[Novelist William] Styron recalled that at the time Mailer said to him: “God, I wish I had the courage to stab a woman like that. That was a real gutsy act.” That tells one all one needs to know about Norman Mailer’s idea of “courage.”

What is perhaps most alarming about Mailer’s violence against his wife was that it seems to have titillated more than it repelled his circle of friends. In any event it brought very little condemnation. “Among ‘uptown intellectuals,’” Irving Howe wrote “there was this feeling of shock and dismay, and I don’t remember anyone judging him. The feeling was that he’d been driven to this by compulsiveness, by madness. He was seen as a victim.” Readers who wonder how stabbing his wife could make Mailer a “victim”—and who ask themselves, further, what Mailer’s being a victim would then make Adele—clearly do not have what it takes to be an “uptown intellectual.”
It bothers me that Kimball does not acknowledge Kate Millet's attack. She set a generation of feminists — including me — against him. His name was poison for me for years, and I read "Executioner's Song" because I was writing about the death penalty theme, but the whole time I held Norman Mailer at a distance. (Writing this post, I initially forgot I'd read one of his books!) I was suspicious. I saw his respect for Gary Gilmore's sexual vigor, and I could still hear Kate Millet's denouncement echoing in my ears.

Of course, the feminists detest the social conservatives like Kimball, and vice versa, but would it kill Kimball to acknowledge the feminist attack, which was there in full view in 1969? Don't act like no one was onto him at the time.

Speaking of feminism, Kimball hates this quote from Mailer (from "Pieces and Pontifications"):
I think when a woman goes through an abortion, even legalized abortion, she goes through hell. There’s no use hoping otherwise. For what is she doing? Sometimes she has to be saying to herself, “You’re killing the memory of a beautiful fuck.” I don’t think abortion is a great strain when the act was some miserable little screech, or some squeak oozed up through the trapdoor, a little rat which got in, a worm who slithered under the threshold. That sort of abortion costs a woman little more than discomfort. Unless there are medical consequences years later.

But if a woman has a great fuck, and then has to abort, it embitters her.
But Kimball should know that feminists — no matter how pro-abortion — hate that too.

42 comments:

christopher said...

That picture...

Oh my god.

I think I boinked that woman at Altamont...

rhhardin said...

It would be the only state with its own subway token.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

As Dorothy Parker said when told that Seward Collins had died, I don't see what else he could do.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

I think New York City would have to become part of America first before it could become a state.

christopher said...

Jeff with one 'f' said...

I think New York City would have to become part of America first before it could become a state.


Apparently 9/11 didn't change the fact that you're a dickhead.

john said...

Christopher/Sweet William,

You didn't boink her in Altamont, you bonked her, with a cue.

Robert Holmgren said...

Putting Jimmy Breslin on the ticket guaranteed that it would've been the left's dream--motor mouth government.

joe said...

As Mark Twain once said, "I did not attend the funeral but I thoroughly approved."
Mailer's first, The Naked and the Dead, was superb and he was never able to come close to that level again. Kind of sad actually.

Bob said...

If you had posted that as a photo of one of Charles Manson's "family," I wouldn't have been a bit surprised.

Sorry, Ann.

Palladian said...

Don't forget that Mailer, through his advocacy for the release of Jack Abbott from prison, indirectly, partially responsible for the death of Richard Adan.

Mailer always makes me think of this passage from Andy Warhol's "POPism":

"One Monday afternoon at the Factory, [Mark Lancaster] told me that Mailer had walked over to him at a party over the weekend and punched him in the gut.

I was impressed. "Norman Mailer actually punched you?" I said. "How great. Why?"

"That's what I asked him. He said it was for wearing a pink jacket."

Norman Mailer was one of the few intellectuals that I really enjoyed."

former law student said...

AA, a hippie chick? Had you just whisked the bong out of sight before the picture was taken?

Also, were you into macrame?

Clang!Honk!Tweet! said...

First, what joe said...

Second, some Elizabethan lyrics for the Althouse teen picture:

Deare, if you change, ile neuer chuse againe.
Sweet, if you shrinke, Ile neuer thinke of loue.
Faire, if you faile, ile iudge all beautie vaine.
Wise, if too weake, moe wits Ile neuer proue.
     Deare, sweet, faire, wise, change, shrink, nor be not weake :
And, on my faith, my faith shall never breake....


His golden locks time hath to silver turnde,
O time too swift, O swiftnesse neuer ceasing !
His youth gainst time and age hath euer spurnd,
But spurnd in vain, youth waneth by increasing.
Beautie, strength, youth are flowers but fading seene :
Dutie, Faith, Loue are roots and euer greene....

—John Dowland, The First Booke of Songs or Ayres, 1597

*   *   *   *   *   *
Things do not change; we change.
—Henry David Thoreau

P. D. "Bo" Steele said...

Your point about Rehnquist's dangling participle in your law review article is brilliant.

Chip Ahoy said...

I read tons of books on ancient Egypt but nothing 1/10th as interesting or brilliant as Ancient Evenings, an unweildy paperback, that had to ripped in half just to be manageable.

chickenlittle said...

yawn

Kirby Olson said...

The poet Gregory Corso used to say that Mailer was boring and all he wanted to do was arm wrestle.

fred said...

typical smart-ass comments by many who have read little or none of Mailer and just need to spill nonsense and venom. This better sums up Mailer's gifts, strengths and shortcomings:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/10/books/11mailer.html?ex=1352350800&en=3c061e07a85792a1&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

cardeblu said...

Former law student: "Had you just whisked the bong out of sight before the picture was taken?"

Actually, my first thought was that it looked like she was loading the paper before the roll...

....or she's just scratching her hand. ;)

T Mack said...

Wow, your were hot once. For how long? It has to be longer then just that one day the picture was taken.
Is the reason you never got married because guys saw that poster in your room and thought you were a lesiban?

Ann Althouse said...

P. D. "Bo" Steele said..."Your point about Rehnquist's dangling participle in your law review article is brilliant."

Thanks. That article came when I was at the height of thinking that law review writing could be transformed. What I really needed was a blog. Oh, to have had a blog in 1991! I'm tormented by the loss. I put so much effort into passages in articles that could scarcely be noticed and if noticed hardly appreciated.

T Mack said..."Wow, your were hot once. For how long? It has to be longer then just that one day the picture was taken. Is the reason you never got married because guys saw that poster in your room and thought you were a lesiban?"

Why do you think I never got married, and why do you think that's my room or my poster? And what the hell is a lesiban? TMack, you need to screw your head back on straight. I think we all suspect that TMack is one of those guys who see women who won't have them and conclude they must be lesbians (or lesibans).

jeff said...

Actually, I just suspected that tmack wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Emphasis on "tool".

Bob said...

I think we all suspect that TMack is one of those guys who see women who won't have them and conclude they must be lesbians (or lesibans).

That sounds a lot like something I came up with for a book I once contemplated: Bob's Lexicon of Sardonic Invective.

Thus:

Slut: (n) When used by a man, refers to a woman who likes sex, but not with himself; when used by a woman, refers to a woman who likes sex, period.

P. D. "Bo" Steele said...

AA:

What you say is undoubtedly true. But why, then, does the phrase casting pearls to swine come to mind? Or do the swine not matter when all is said and done? Anybody who can make the point about Rehnquist's dangling participle shouldn't write for free, I say.

Gary Rosen said...

Lesiban - women's auxiliary of the Taliban.

Editor in Chief said...

I must confess, you were quite the hot smoking babe, back in the day!

:-)

-Chuck

Trooper York said...

I believe approximately 10,000 people came to the funeral of Jack Cohen who was a movie mogul and a famous rat bastard. When they asked Errol Flynn why did so many people show up, he replied "Well when you give the people what they want....." I bet Mr. Mailer’s services will be very well attended

Moon Rattled said...

I cannot believe the woman posted a pic of herself right after the headline about Mailer. The pic has nothing to do with Mailer whatsoever, but why let an opportunity for attention pass you by.

What's your beef with women in sweaters again? Um, I'm seeing a coy Ann here looking up, with her legs spread. I have no problem with that, but hell, it's certainly more sexually suggestive than a pic of a woman standing normally who happens to be wearing a sweater.

Ann Althouse said...

Moon Rattled, grind away the gears in your little mind. Maybe in a few years, you'll crank out an idea. Good luck!

former law student said...

re: moon rattled

1. Mailer died
2. He once ran for mayor of nyc
3. Ann has a picture commemmorating the event.
4. Unlike a picture of a certain person with a certain famous horndog, in the picture, Ann
(a) does not accentuate any part of her anatomy, and
(b) does not accentuate any part of her anatomy to the benefit of any other person.

Peter said...

I was twelve or thirteen when I read The Naked and the Dead. I thought it was a great novel. Then, at age eighteen I went over a bow ramp at Chu Lai, May the 7th, 1965. After fghting a war I had the chance to read that book again and discovered how utterly lame and inane it was.

As for the picture of our hostess, perhaps it is because I am an adult but I kind of like the Ann of today, speaking of reletive hotness.

Mike said...

Dammit, Bob beat me to the Manson Family joke!

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Peter, both for fighting a war for us and for being an adult. I'm 19 in that picture.

Gedaliya said...

The great Roger Kimball tells us all there is to know about Norman Mailer, and what he tells isn't pretty:

Norman Mailer Agonistes

Neo andertal said...

The picture does have a look of sullen 60’s radical chic but I’m guessing there’s less to it than that.

I hate to be more literal than others here, but it appears that you are turning the page of a book rather than rolling anything. I’m just guessing, but the sullen pout seems more due to the fact you’ve just been rudely blinded by a flash bulb, rather than anything overtly sexual in nature as some here have imagined.

If indeed the poster is yours at all. The fact that you hadn’t read anything by Norman Mailer but appear beneath a prominently displayed the Mailer-Breslin for Mayor poster might be called ironic, but it’s would be hardly ironic for a youth to make an iconic association with something they’ve made no attempt to understand. Or maybe the poster is just there.

Cool poster though. Not that I’m a Mailer fan.

Ann Althouse said...

Well, it wasn't my poster (or my room), and I don't know what I'm doing with my hands, but I'm certainly not rolling a cigarette, as that's something I've never done in my life. I do think I seem to have a bad attitude. Not Manson-family bad though. Just art-student bad.

Neo andertal said...

Funny how images from certain periods conjure up all sorts of things in peoples imaginations (usually wrong things). We have an old picture of my brother-in-law in a leisure suit circa 1972. Never fails to get all sorts of comments. Truth is he proposed in it. That always gets a good laugh. Kinda scary that way too. My sister drags the picture out every once in a while and tells her husband that the answer is no. Teasing of course.

Neo andertal said...

Oh, That was a “Polyester” leisure suit. Forgot to add that. Nice 1972 polyester.

M. Simon said...

Layla.

Moon Rattled said...

As you well know, I'm not alone in thinking you're a flaming narcissist who trolls for attention. My theory is it's the amount of wine you drink.

Ann Althouse said...

Moon Rattled, of course you're not alone. You haven't got an original idea in your head. N

amba said...

Maybe you forgot reading The Executioner's Song because it was the only Mailer book from which Mailer himself was conspicuously absent, and, not coincidentally, possibly the only really good book he ever wrote. You detect his sexual attitudes in it even so, and you may be right. What I remember about it is that so many people looked at Gary Gilmore from so many different perspectives, including Gilmore himself, and then the firing squad shot him and the pathologists took his body apart, and the mystery of Gilmore -- and by extension, of anyone -- escaped.

rcocean said...

"I was twelve or thirteen when I read The Naked and the Dead. I thought it was a great novel. Then, at age eighteen I went over a bow ramp at Chu Lai, May the 7th, 1965. After fghting a war I had the chance to read that book again and discovered how utterly lame and inane it was."

I only had to serve in the peacetime military, and grow up a bit, to realize how lame it was. Two-thirds of the book is crap, namely the absurd time-machine portraits and the discussions on politics/Fascism between the general and the 2nd Lt.

Mailer could never write convincingly about people who were not Norman Mailer. But I thought the descriptions of the marching and the jungle were well done.

And thats his best novel.