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  1. I met Mailer 4 or 5 times, the first time in Miami Beach at the 1972 Democratic convention, but mostly during the time in the mid-1980s when he was president of PEN at PEN events. He was always very kind, it seemed, and I think he somehow had learned for the sake of his stature and his position as PEN president, a kind of literary elder statesman, to suppress his natural tendency to tell off fools.

    I recall standing with him in a group at the National Arts Club in, I think, September 1984, when some guy started talking about military manuevers involving nuclear weapons in New York Harbor by Staten Island. I can recall Mailer’s electric blue eyes sizing the guy up and then turning slightly to me — the only time at that party that he looked at me — and he rolled his eyes just enough for me to see them (and to respond in kind) without anyone else noticing.

    In grad school in the spring of 1974 I took a class titled Mailer and Bellow, which seems — from this vantage point — to be pretty early in their careers — and my research paper was a comparison of Mailer’s play and novel of The Deer Park, works that I’d now like to read again. The first book of Mailer’s that I ever read was Advertisements for Myself, a great title and a good introduction to him.

    When a classmate in the MFA program at Brooklyn lost his father, he wrote an essay about the old man and for some reason sent it to Mailer, who in reply sent a very generous, very solicitous and surprisingly long letter. I think that gesture — I saw the letter — made me admire Mailer more than anything else did besides his work.

  2. Goddammit, that is NOT Rip Torn! It doesn’t sound (either in accent or timbre) or look like Rip Torn. Tom Skerritt, I could believe. Rip Torn, no.

    (I have Trivia Karma to work off…)

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