November 10, 2007November 10, 2007 by Edward Champion RIP Norman Mailer Obits 3 Comments Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email Print Tumblr Reddit
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.
The video’s down. And I really wanted to link that fucker, too.
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…)