Norman Mailer Dead at 84Prolific, 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]
in other news
How to Make Easton Ellis’s Imaginary Lit Feud More InterestingGod, are literary feuds lame lately — even, or especially, fake ones. Watch, for example, today’s Daily News try to imply there’s some beef afoot between Bret Easton Ellis and mentee Jeff Hobbs. What happened? Ellis didn’t show up to the book party (at the Box, natch) for Hobbs’s novel, The Tourists, about misbehaving Yale grads. The third paragraph casually mentions that Ellis lives in L.A., and the best evidence Rush and Molloy can dig up on the rift is that Ellis and Hobbs haven’t seen talked in “three or four weeks.” Say it ain’t so! If they’re determined to find a fight, we suggest they pick up on Ellis’s quote in which he says Hobbs “has a lot of interesting things to say about that generation’s fluidity about sexuality,” and then plainly, just this side of legally, allege Ellis’s own “fluidity” with Hobbs: Why else would he even be expected to fly cross-country to the Box in the first place? Then, suddenly, the news item’s joke about “the well-endowed (um, with literary talent) Ellis” doesn’t, um, dangle.
Odds of a Rift Between Ellis and Protege: Less Than Zero [NYDN]
Alice Walker Talks About Feminism, But Not About Motherhood
There was an everydaughter-size elephant in the auditorium last night as old friends Gloria Steinem and Alice Walker, in conversation at the 92nd Street Y, talked about almost everything — meditation, California, Rwanda, George Bush (he’s bad!), peaches (mean freedom!), and mothers (complicated!). But they did not talk about Walker’s daughter, Rebecca, the feminist writer — and also Steinem’s goddaughter — who revealed in her recent book, Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence that she is estranged from her Pulitzer-winning parent. (Okay, maybe it wasn’t entirely surprising: In Rebecca’s earlier book, Black, White and Jewish, she wrote about feeling emotionally neglected as a child.) “I am always happy to talk about my mother,” said Walker at the discussion. “My mother was a big woman, a strong woman, a beautiful woman, a woman who could not be beaten.” But there wasn’t a word on being a mother herself — not that there weren’t opportunities.
in other news
Michael Chabon’s Got Swords, Thanks to SpareThe publishing blog Galleycat reports that the Times Magazine’s “Funny Pages” will feature a tale by Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Michael Chabon as its fifth serialized contribution. (Previous contributors were Elmore Leonard, Patricia Cornwell, Scott Turow, and Michael Connelly.) Galleycat gets the gist of the story from the announcement — it’s “an adventure yarn set in the tenth-century kingdom of Arran, which the Times press release helpfully notes was ‘in the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas’” — and follows up with an e-mail to Chabon, asking about his inspirations for the project. “Well, the novel carries a dedication to Michael Moorcock,” Chabon replies, mentioning “his stories of Elric and other ironic sword-wielding heroes.” And, well, of course he does. For Chabon, isn’t it always about acknowledgements and, um, swords?
Michael Chabon Prepares Swashbuckler for NYT [Galleycat/MB]
Earlier: Michael Chabon, Defender of the Acknowledgement
Colson Whitehead Likes Meat
We all know how to eat breakfast like a champion. Lunching like a MacArthur genius, or dining like a novelist, well, those are less clear-cut endeavors. It’s a good thing, then, that Colson Whitehead — MacArthur genius, novelist, Fort Greene resident — chronicled a week in his eating life for Grub Street. The man is an admitted fan of “any sort of meat-in-dough combo — whether it’s hot dogs or wontons or pork tacos,” but there’s lots more in there, too. Check it out on Grub Street.
Colson Whitehead Is a Big Fan of Meat Inside Dough [Grub Street]
in other news
Americans Get to Pick Authors, Too, If Not Iraq PolicyThe Times Arts section this morning discovered a shocking new trend: Authors who are willing to do pretty much anything to get published, even if it means getting in on this crazy Internet thing. Apparently Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone Imprint — which recently canceled a first-time author contest co-sponsored with Sobol Literary Enterprises, an agency, after the $85 entry fee scared off participants — has now created a new contest in partnership with Gather.com, a sort of MySpace for people who understand they’re too old for MySpace. (We’re impressed with the judging skills already.) Aspiring authors will submit the first chapters of their novels; Gather.com members will vote in rounds until they get a winner. The prize is $5,000 from the site and a book contract from Touchstone. We already know, of course, that You control the media, ever since Time told us. So we’re not terribly surprised You control publishing. (Can we say how much we’re looking forward to getting You coffee?) But we’re most taken by the article’s lede, which wonders, “Is there anything the American consumer isn’t allowed to decide?” and cites examples like YouTube, American Idol, and a decision on Doritos’ next Super Bowl commercial. See, it’s true: There is nothing Americans aren’t allowed to decide. Well, except, the 2000 election, whether to fight global warming, housing for Katrina victims and the war in Iraq. But, hey, we do get to pick the Top Chef.
One Click, One Vote to Publish a Winner [NYT]
Although We See More Potential for Murder and Mayhem at Atlantic YardsAward-winning mystery writer S.J. Rozan’s latest book, In This Rain, is about — isn’t everything these days about? — New York’s redevelopment. A standing-room-only crowd turned out last night at Partners & Crime, in Greenwich Village, for a launch reading of the book, set squarely at the intersection of developers, activists, and City Hall in the gentrification of Harlem. (A large portion of Rozan’s research, she said, apparently involved consuming sticky goods at Wimp’s Bakery on 125th Street.) So who gets a cameo in this whodunit? “There’s a character who’s Bloomberg, and people keep telling me they see him in the book,” commented Rozan. “But they also keep seeing Rangel. Poor Rangel! I didn’t mean to have him in there.” No word yet on whether Harlem’s most presidential neighbor gets a role — or whether people think they see him there. — Lizzie Skurnick
S.J. Rozan [Official site]
Michael Chabon, Defender of the AcknowledgmentLast week, Times books reporter Julie Bosman took a swipe at Norman Mailer’s Aeneid-length acknowledgments. In today’s letter column, Pulitzer-winning novelist Michael Chabon presents a defense:
Here’s a crazy reason your article did not mention for including an acknowledgment at the end of your novel: to acknowledge. If there is some kind of old-fashioned virtue in concealing one’s debt to and gratitude for the hard work of others, it’s difficult for me to see where it lies.
But of course Chabon approves of the public airing of private gratitude. He’s married, after all, to novelist Ayelet Waldman, who famously published a certain delightful bit in a March 2005 “Modern Love” column. What did she have to say?