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Tuesday, November 13, 2007 3:13 pm
Norman Mailer, R.I.P.
Posted by: Keir Graff

Out of the office yesterday, observing (as suggested by the schedule of my younger son’s daycare) Veteran’s Day. So much to catch up on. For instance, Norman Mailer’s passing. The Mediabistro Morning Newsfeed did a great job of rounding up the most noteworthy of the many obituaries and tributes, but I’ll link to only one, Jay Parini’s respectful but clear-eyed assessment in the Guardian books blog (“Mailer’s talent was never as big as his ego“):

The odd thing about Mailer was that he was never at heart a novelist but a remarkably gifted journalist. As a young man, I read The Naked and the Dead (1948) with deep admiration for its epic sweep, the passion and occasionally brilliance of the writing. Barbary Shore (1951) and The Deer Park (1955) left me cold, as they did most reviewers. I tried, without success, to push through Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967). I did so because I liked the image of Mailer: the literary hipster with a good deal of bravado, the outsider, the man who dared to tell society what its faults were. I admired the vast ambition. But it seemed to me he was not much of a novelist.

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3 Responses to “Norman Mailer, R.I.P.”
  1. Helena Martinez Says:

    Of course the fact that Parini is the literary executor for Gore Vidal’s estate had nothing to do with Jay’s lukewarm assessment right ? Gore Vidal is now jockeying for The Nobel Prize that Norman Mailer deserved. Of course, few people have any good Gore Vidal stories. Why not ? No children and his friends were and are few and far between.
    As far as the writing goes, I’ll give Mailer the edge, but seriously who is Jay Parini trying to kid. I heard him call Norman Mailer a “crypto-fag” once. What does that make Gore Vidal then ?

  2. Mark Kohut Says:

    Good Ms. Martinez,

    And in July 2007, I heard Norman at the NYPL with Gunter Grass. Among lost of other interesting things, he hesitated and agreed with the interlocuter’s assessment tht he might have gotten the Nobel but for the wife-stabbing incident.

  3. Keir Says:

    Helena, I confess that I’m not very good at following other people’s possible secret agendas–but if you find that worthwhile, knock yourself out.

    As for your cryptoquote, it’s a sad substitute for an argument.


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