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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Norman Mailer interview

A while ago Jen from Jennifer D. Wade Journal put up an invitation for suggestions for names for a dead pool, a competition where people come up with lists of people they think will die in the coming year. Although he wasn't on my first list of suggestions, Norman Mailer was one that I submitted. And now he's dead.

In the days since his death I've learned more about Norman Mailer than I knew while he was living. For example, he was not a famous playwright who was once married to Marilyn Monroe (that was Arthur Miller, who died in 2005.) He also did not found People for the American Way (that was TV producer Norman Lear.) And, just for the heck of it, he also did not write The Goodbye Girl (that was Neil Simon.)

No, he was an American writer of some stature, but unfortunately one that I have not read. There is a copy of Harlot's Ghost downstairs, one of the many, many used and discounted books my father bought in the days after his stroke but before encroaching Alzheimer's robbed him of his independence. Maybe someday I'll read it.

I caught an interview with Norman Mailer from 1991 on NPR's Fresh Air yesterday. I was surprised by how much his tone of haughty arrogance tempered by the obviousness of his talent reminded me of a certain aspiring writer I know - perhaps if I ever re-establish contact with her (she has not posted a new blog post in several weeks, and my calls and e-mails are not being returned) I'll be able to direct her here. And his account of riding an ego roller coaster as he went from Harvard (where he excelled) to a stint in the U.S. Army (where he felt incompetent) reminded me a lot of my current situation.

Give the interview a listen. Maybe it'll inspire you to pick up something he's written, too.

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