Not a very PC thing to say, but then when would that have bothered someone like Norman Mailer?
I have to admit that Norman Mailer never did anything for me. I can’t remember what it was I read that did it — Armies of the Night? The Executioners Song? — but that coupled with reading Capote’s In Cold Blood pretty much cemented these two together in my mind as writers I didn’t need to revisit.
Sorry, folks, but that’s just the way it is. Not all writers can be all things to all people. I’ve lived quite a fine life without them.
I did try and give Mailer another chance a few years later with Tough Guys Don’t Dance, one of his weaker works of fiction I’m told, but all I remember thinking was “Wow, that would make a really crappy movie.” And just to prove it true, he directed the adaptation himself.
Speaking of Hollywood, Mailer had a bit part in the movie adaptation of E.L. Doctrow’s Ragtime playing Stanford White. Toward the end of the first act his character gets shot in the back of the head. Given the proximity of that cinematic moment with the shooting of John Lennon the same year I began to wonder what it was that drove individuals to shoot others. Given Mailer’s examination (and occasional defense) of those who committed murder and were sentenced to death it’s also fascinating that he chose to play a character who was at once both an arrogant bully and a victim.
The joke flying around the Internet is that now Norman Mailer is both naked and dead. As much as I can’t say I miss him I already do.