We all knew this was coming: the approbations, the lionizations, the veritable bullshit that Norman Mailer was a gift to the world. All this largely perpetuated by a man advertising for himself. Literally. Not just the book. Mailer was so insecure, so arrogant, so unwilling to listen, that he took out advertisements in newspapers that panned his work.
Well, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to dissent. I’ve been asked multiple times today about what I feel about Mailer kicking the bucket and I have quietly nodded my head to allow those who cared for him to have their quiet moments of consideration. But I never really cared for the man’s writing. There was an interview opportunity for The Castle in the Forest that I didn’t pursue a few years ago. Could have made happen if I really wanted to. But I didn’t, not only because the novel was the most trite and preposterous nonsense I had read in three years, but the idea of talking to Mailer was like being trapped in a closet with an insufferable narcissist.
What did Mailer give us? What was his chief contribution to letters? Mailer as King of the Universe. Mailer as knowing egomaniac. Mailer as hyper-masculine creature of the day and night. Mailer who never listened to anybody but himself. Mailer who, if he considered your work, did it because he wanted you to know he was Mailer and that you were not Mailer. Mailer the sexist pig who got his ass whooped by Germaine Greer.
Well, fuck Norman Mailer. Someone needs to do an HST-style obit for the man. I am not the person to do this, in large part because I don’t have the time. But if I read one more bullshit item about how Mailer was the King of the Universe, then I’m going to require a shotgun or something.
(This writeup, however, is a good start.)
UPDATE: More on Mailer’s “genius,” from the comments in the above link:
Later, Mr. Mailer wrote a piece for a magazine where I worked as an editor, for which he was paid $50,000 (a shocking amount, then and now). The literary lion had trouble delivering and had to be given a conference room at the magazine (Esquire) and an “assistant” to help him meet his deadline. The piece was a routine interview. The final result was such a horrific mish-mash that, once again, I couldn’t finish it without much determined skimming. All in all, he seemed to have no special talent for either long-form works or routine culture pieces. So what was his talent anyway? Self-promotion, I guess.