Rest in Peace, Norman Mailer
Yesterday morning I heard Norman Mailer had died. It was a shock, but then again, he has been going strong since 1948. Even in my high school years, when I became very interested in anti-war protests, he was considered an older writer, part of the old guard.
Did I like his work? I can't say I did. But a writer like Mailer is a force, and respect is the only proper response. He was a workhorse, I've heard from other writers, and nothing is more admirable in a writer than hard work ... unless it's utter indolence, which can also lead to good writing, though not as much of it.
Mailer, right or wrong, had a clear voice and descriptive manner. I found him abrasive and disagreeable, but then again, as a so-called "feminist," I guess that's only natural. His book on Marilyn Monroe is a little frightening, more like the bitter account of rejection than reasonable nonfiction.
Like, say Hunter Thompson, Mailer burst into letters with an original point of view that wasn't a gimmick, that resonated with people. Some actors have this ability ... merely who they are radiates something true. Marilyn Monroe was that way, so is Jack Nicholson. Writers like Mailer have something to say that hasn't been said before.
Probably the funniest interview I ever read in Esquire was an interview between Norman Mailer and Madonna. The year was 1994 and she was wearing a spiked collar and leash on the cover. For once, you had things clearly stated ... the new guard was playing nice with the old.