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  • Lance Mannion
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I was thinking last night that he was an archetype with a few others, and that many of them were New Yorkers. Gay Talese, Jimmy Breslin, Andy Warhol...

Is there something in the water or air there?

velvet goldmine

The Executioner's Song was really important to me in high school, as was the whole idea of the nonfiction novel. I can't even really remember why, but I was completely wrapped up in it.

Then....this is really irrational, but the reason that I didn't go on to read more of Mailer is that one of his children did something unspeakable to a dear friend of mine. I know the sins of the kids shouldn't be visited upon the fathers, but you have to figure there was plenty of asshatery in the Mailer child rearin' method.

A couple of years ago Mailer and that spawn of his were on a TV show together, which I came across out of the blue, and I couldn't get over how enraged I was about it.

But I didn't stab anyone or anything.

Dan Leo

Lance, on your recommendation I'll have to put "Executioner's Song" on my reading list, but only after I finish Proust and that new translation of "War and Peace".

I actually always got a kick out of seeing Norman on TV, even though I wasn't crazy about even "Naked" and "Armies". He was just always trying so fucking hard, if you know what I mean. And it cracked me up that his book on writing ,"The Spooky Art", was filled out with a lot of not-so-good writing.

I went to a lecture he gave at Temple University well over thirty years ago, where he showed clips from his early movies "Maidstone" and "Beyond the Law", and conducted a lively Q&A with the audience. I thought he was very likeable. And I remember somebody asking him why he didn't make another movie, and he said he'd like to but he was tapped out, and had had to borrow money from his mom to finish his last movie.

It's hard to imagine Dave Eggers or Rick Moody or David Foster Wallace or Jonathan Safran Foer showing up drunk on TV shows, telling people to fuck off, getting arrested, punching guys, not being nice and careful all the fucking time...

Love him or hate him, as Marlene Dietrich said about Quinlan at the end of "A Touch of Evil":

"He was some kind of a man."


"will matter is that after you read Catch 22 and The Thin Red Line and Slaughterhouse Five you have nowhere else you have to go except onto The Naked and the Dead."

What about Irwin Shaw's The Young Lions?

"And I remember somebody asking him why he didn't make another movie, and he said he'd like to but he was tapped out, and had had to borrow money from his mom to finish his last movie."

Tough Guys Don't Dance is kind of interesting. Not great if you persist in believing it's a straight noir thriller while you're watching it, but if you admit it's.......something else (Mailer kept insisting it was a horror movie) ........ it's interesting.


I love "The Deer Park" and find the journalism boring, which is probably just me being perverse. And did you really read "Ancient Evenings"? That stood out as one of the great, colossal duds from a mile away. I'm still mulling a possible reading of "Harlot's Ghost," just because the CIA is sorta important.

Bill Altreuter

I'm pretty sure nobody has ever finished "Ancient Evenings". I sure as hell didn't. "The Deer Park" is better than you give it credit for being, and "Advertisements for Myself" is a wonderful, genre defining thing, full of treats-- a sort of literary pinata-- which, come to think of it, is sort of what Mailer was too.

I invited him to my wedding. He didn't come, but sent along a note with his regrets. I didn't know him, of course-- I put him on the invitation list because I admired him, and because I wanted to upset my bride and her mother. Years later I met him at a book signing and told him the story. "Heh, heh, heh," he laughed in that distinctive rolling way, obviously amused by the story, "That's pretty good.What's your wife's name?" Then he wrote a dedication to her on the flyleaf of "Time of Our Time" (he called it "ToOts").

There is nobody left like him.


Naked and the Dead was my first war novel (ahead even of Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet on the Western Front) at age 14. I remember being puzzled by the 'fugs' -- why? Why was he the only writer I had read who misspelled 'fuck'?

I also remember being shaken by the raw power of the novel. I've meant to re-read it, but I doubt I ever will. Nothing else he wrote had such an impact.

what will matter is that after you read Catch 22 and The Thin Red Line and Slaughterhouse Five you have nowhere else you have to go except onto The Naked and the Dead.

There is a relatively little-known novel called Birdy by William Wharton which is partly about the Second World War, and I still sometimes think of it as my coming of age book. It taught me the most I knew about sex for a very long time.


I loved Birdy. It was deceptively simple.

I loved Mailer's first novel, and was disappointed by the rest. Loved Executioner's Song, so I kind of forgave him.

But the whole what's his face incident, the guy who wrote Belly of the Beast; that was sheer ego driven madness. It was hard to read him after that.

Ken Houghton

Cavett discusses Mailer on his show (and more) here.


Yeah, Neil Gaiman also said he found Mailer a really nice guy. Who'da thunk it?


All I know about Mailer's writing was a piece he did on the Foreman/Ali fight. It was so good and made fighting sound so interesting, I decided to watch a fight after that. I don't remember what fight it was - one that people were getting excited about - pay per view - and, I think I watched three minutes worth and realize, unless I was seeing it through Mailer's eyes - it just looked like men trying to hit each other: no beauty, skill, art....

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