Back in 1979, at the height of his curly-haired glory, Norman Mailer composed a witty and sharp obituary for himself for Boston magazine, which has reprinted it on their Website on the occasion of his death this past weekend. "Norman Mailer passed away yesterday after celebrating his fifteenth divorce and sixteenth wedding," it begins:
He was renowned in publishing circles for his blend of fictional journalism and factual fiction, termed by literary critic William Buckley: Contemporaneous Ratiocinative Aesthetical Prolegomena. Buckley was consequentially sued by Mailer for malicious construction of invidious acronyms. “Norman does take himself seriously,” was Mr. Buckley’s reply. “Of course he is the last of those who do.”
As friends and family paid respects to Norman Mailer at his wake in Provincetown, Massachusetts, yesterday, we decided to dig up our part of one of Mailer's most colorful personal stories: when he ran for mayor in 1969. "I am paying my debt to society," he told Time that summer. "That is why I am running." He ran alongside newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin, who ran for City Council president. They began their campaign at the urging of friends like Gloria Steinem and Jack Newfield, at a time when they saw the city as a wounded place in need of healing. Breslin recounted his experience of running, and how Mailer convinced him to do it, in a May 1969 New York cover story. Click below to read.
MAILER-BRESLIN: Seriously? [NYM, pdf]
It's safe to say, now, that Norman Mailer did not become the heavyweight champion of fiction — safe to say because he's no longer around to take a swing at you with his cane. Even in his last year, Mailer would vigorously defend his reputation if he heard something he didn't like. After this magazine recently published an innocuous chart chronicling his many highly entertaining feuds, he called to deliver a loud, hearing-challenged verbal pummeling. But, though he doubtless wouldn't fully concede the point, even he must have realized that his greatest work was not fiction.
It wasn't lost on the activists at the National Women's Conference at Hunter College that literary lion Norman Mailer, whose writing became a target of feminist wrath during the seventies, died in New York on the same day that their event began. The weekend-long program, which drew members of some 50 women's and girls' organizations, was planned by the late congresswoman Bella Abzug's daughter Liz to mark the 30th anniversary of the first such gathering in Houston. And while the elder Abzug once told Mailer, "We think your views on women are full of s---," she supported him in his losing 1969 campaign for mayor of New York, as did Gloria Steinem, who spoke Sunday morning to a cheering crowd of about 600 women from 21 states who had attended workshops with titles like "Smashing the Glass Ceiling."
Prolific, outspoken novelist Norman Mailer passed away this morning at Mount Sinai hospital, where he'd been admitted several weeks ago with respiratory problems.
A true New York character, both colorful and controversial, Mailer co-founded The Village Voice, penned over 30 books, directed four movies, won two Pulitzer Prizes, and tossed at least one drink at Gore Vidal. A fascinating man with an ego to match, Mailer was nothing if not captivating, and the world of letters won't be the same without his bluff and bravado.
Earlier:The Rise of Mailerism [NYM]
Father to Son: What I've Learned About Rage [NYM]
At Upstairs in Soho, Leonardo DiCaprio had the back of Danny A after the club promoter got into an altercation with a patron. New York Yankee Joba Chamberlain celebrated his 22nd birthday at the Plumm by drinking Red Bull with a bunch of teammates. Tom Touchet, who was a producer at the Today show until he was forced out by Katie Couric, may have to work with her again now that he's at CBS. The Scores stripper who sold pictures of Oscar De La Hoya in drag regrets having done so for only $70,000. Derek Jeter sat near Hilary Duff at Megu Midtown. French soprano Natalie Dessay, star of the Met's Lucia di Lammermoor, understands why a lot of people think opera is boring. George Clooney, girlfriend Sarah Larson, and a group of friends dined downstairs at La Esquina.
Rosie O'Donnell emceed a luncheon for Women in Communications, and she offended audience members with off-color jokes. Cindy Adams liked her act, though. Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Norman Mailer, and Anna Wintour all showed up for the memorial service for JFK aide Arthur Schlesinger Jr.Rudy Giuliani's success in presidential polls is making Mike Bloomberg want to run for president. Martha Stewart's billionaire boyfriend, Charles Simonyi, returned from a visit to the International Space Station. An Icelandic billionaire bought an Ian Schrager penthouse in Gramercy Park for $10 million. Hotelier Jason Pomeranc celebrated his birthday with Kate Hudson. Sheryl Crow may be an environmental activist, but a performance rider shows she demands three tractor trailers, four buses, and six cars for a gig. Speaking of Crow, she may have had a falling out with fellow activist Laurie David during their anti-global-warming cross-country tour.
Norman Mailer still hates Michiko Kakutani, dislikes Janet Maslin, too, and did an interview with Martha Stewart for her TV show. CNN execs went on a corporate retreat to the Bahamas, and "Page Six," presumably on behalf of Fox News, mocks them for it. If you complain at Nobu, Drew Nieporent might blacklist you. Peter Cook, Christie Brinkley's soon-to-be ex-husband, went grocery shopping. (Cindy Adams, meantime, dubs Brinkley Professor Emeritus in How to Handle El Piggo, which she actually means as a compliment.) Retired Ford Models vet Neil Hamil to run Elite Models. There's a reality show being shopped in which ten virgin men compete to lose it to "a celeb."
Lawyers for HarperCollins are in possession of Judith Regan's financial statements, will, divorce papers, photographs of her children, unopened Christmas gifts, and a 20-by-30-foot painting of her, among other things. Because she left them all at that office. Ralph Ellison didn't like Norman Mailer and his beat pals because they reduced the world to sex. As Harvey Weinstein was buying the rights to her movie, Mandy Moore was making out with D.J. AM. Hugo Chavez tried to meet Gisele when they were both in Rio, but she shot him down. Owen Wilson hung out with Kate Hudson in Australia.
In all the brouhaha over Christopher Hitchens's paean to poop jokes in the new Vanity Fair, you might have missed the Proust Questionnaire with literary warhorse Norman Mailer. The venerable writer-cum-political agitator dishes on his hatred for Reagan, Bush, Hitler, and — oh, yeah — Pulitzer-winning Times book critic Michiko Kakutani:
What is your greatest fear? That I will never meet Michiko Kakutani and so not be able to tell her what I think of her. She has an unseemly haste to rush into print with the first very bad review of any book I write. She does this ahead of publication. That is a strategy. If the first review of a book is dreadful, an author needs at least three good ones to change that first impression.