Remember when he ran for Mayor?
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....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.
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.”
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 Kimball should know that feminists — no matter how pro-abortion — hate that too.
But if a woman has a great fuck, and then has to abort, it embitters her.