Saturday, November 10, 2007
Legendary Pulitzer Prize winning author Norman Mailer has died. I first discovered Mailer in my early teens and he quickly became one of my favorite writers. Novels like TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE and THE AMERICAN DREAM were particular favorites, but what really captured me were the essays in ADVERTISEMENTS FOR MYSELF, and his books on Muhammad Ali and Marilyn Monroe.
While I couldn't always relate to Mailer's sense of machismo, I did always admire him and value his work. He managed to bring passion to everything he worked on.
He was also a filmmaker, and his rough and tumble version of his own TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE is definitely worth another look. Unfortunately I have never seen MAIDSTONE, his infamous early seventies work, but I have gotten hours of pleasure reading about it.
Norman Mailer was one of the giants of twentieth century literature. He left a major mark on several literary playing fields, and continued to write long after many of his contemporaries put down the pen. I'll miss the guy.
One favorite piece of his writing comes from this closing section section of his moving OF WOMEN AND THEIR ELEGANCE, his audacious and final look at Marilyn Monroe.
"Then after we hung up, I called him back to see if he would really come out when he was done with Paris, and we made a date to meet when he returned to America in early September. Of course, I never got to see the end of August. Or even the middle."
Here is another bit of my favorite writing from Mailer. This is taken from his original Times article as he watched Muhammad Ali begin to spring off the ropes and take down George Foreman in Zaire. Mailer's stunned ringside reaction is one of the great moments in the astonishing WHEN WE WERE KINGS documentary from ten years ago.
"With 20 seconds left to the the round, Ali attacked. By his own measure, by that measure of 20 years of boxing, with the knowledge of all that he had learned of what could and what could not be done at any instant in the ring, he chose this as the occasion, and lying on the ropes he hit Foreman with a right and a left, then came off the ropes to hit him with a left and a right."
Norman Mailer, much like the majestic Ali that he admired so greatly, never stopped swinging. I can imagine wherever he is right now that he is already working on a new book, and making his presence very much known.