Friday, November 23, 2007

Norman Mailer, R.I.P

Norman Mailer's death earlier this month produced varying obituaries, most of which recalled his sometimes violent and aberrant behavior, and his sexist and homophobic remarks. Yet in spite of his many failings, he was a brilliant writer. Beth at the Cassandra Pages says it so much better than I could.

I've been doing some research on the 1968 Democratic Convention for a time-travel novel I'm working on. Malier's account isn't the most comprehensive or the most informative, but it's the most well--written. Here's a paragraph from his description of Chicago from Miami and the Siege of Chicago (New York: World Publishing Co., 1968):

"Not here for a travelogue--no need then to detail the Loop, in death like the center of every other American city, but what a dying! Old department stores, old burlesque houses, avenues, dirty avenues, the El with its nineteenth century dialogue of iron screeching against iron about a turn, and caverns of shadow on the pavement beneath, the grand hotels with their massive lobbies, baroque ceilings, resplendent as Roman bordellos, names like Sheraton-Blackstone, Palmer House, red fields of carpet, a golden cage for elevator, the unheard crash of giant mills stamping new shapes on large and obdurate materials is always pounding in one's inner ear--Dreiser had not written about Chicago for nothing."

None of the other descriptions of 1968 Chicago could match that one paragraph.

12 comments:

Julie said...

I see it. Caverns of shadow...

Did you pick up that Col.Tebbits of Enola Gay died a couple of weeks ago?
He requested an unmarked grave.

steve said...

Julie--I did see that, though I didn't know about the unmarked grave. There was a documentary on PBS a few years ago that suggested that the most important reason for the Japanese surrender was not the atomic bombs, but the Soviet Union's declaration of war on Japan. The Japanese, in this view, decided surrendering to the Americans offered a far better fate than becoming a Soviet puppet.

Julie said...

Steve - I vaguely remember picking up on this the last time I was in the Imperial War Museum doing some research on an original photo I've got taken of the Normandy landings - (some days after D Day!)

I tend to trawl information loosely and then go back to verify detail if necessary.

Julie said...

Steve, you may pick this up on Charles', but just to say I've run into a problem in that it appears google can trawl all these blogs and comments - everything is accessible to the public unless they are restricted to invited readers or authors only.

I assumed I'd cancelled general access on mine but that isn't the case. Doubt there is any harm done, but I need a rethink as we have a lot of contacts.

Regards, Julie

Charles Gramlich said...

I'd like to read a good biography of Mailer. I imagine there are some ones that will be coming out soon. He was an interesting guy.

steve said...

Julie--Thanks for the info. I've always known Google could trawl through the blogs, and I have no problem with that. I didn't know it could pick up the comments, though. Since Google owns Blogger, it makes sense. I'll leave my blog open. I wouldn't have been able do discover you, Charles, Lisa and many other blogging friends if my or their blogs had been closed.

But now I can't get into your blog--at least, not the Virtual Journey. And anyone linking from my blog to yours would get the same "invited guests only message."

steve said...

Charles--I agree. I've read quite a bit of his journalistic work. I'm sure there are biographers busy at work right now.

Julie said...

Steve, thanks -

Eldest son is well up in IT and I've talked through the pro's and cons, just decided to clear out anything too 'personal' and watch what I'm putting in print. Have opened the blogs up. When I suggested I pulled the plug, it was son who wailed protest as he's finally started reading 'em....honestly, kids....

Sustenance Scout said...

Love this Mailer tidbit, Steve. He certainly was a fascinating character. K.

Leigh Russell said...

Hi Steve, interesting blog. Like you, I have no problem with my blog being open. It's fun to receive comments from all round the world and it's all virtual, so I can't see the problem.

Please feel free to visit my blog where comments from fellow writers are especially welcome. As a new writer, I've been overwhelmed with advice and interest I've received from all sorts of people. I would have missed a lot of that if my blog was 'closed'. I know some people have 'closed' blogs but I'm not sure how they find other likeminded people to blog with... Am I missing something? (Wouldn't be a first...)

My blog is about the experience I'm having as a new author. I'm up to the My MS has just been to the editor stage... I've had the cut and lived to tell the tale.

steve said...

Julie--Glad your blog is open again. The letter recognition will prevent automatic spam--I haven't had any problem with that except for one with links to Polish porn sites (honest), which I deleted.

Karen--always good to hear from you. Sometimes I cringe at reading Mailer (he once boasted of sucker-punching Gore Vidal before their appearance on the Dick Cavett Show, but he did give Vidal praise for going through with the show after being punched), but it was always well-written.

Leigh--Thanks for commenting. I've visited your blog a few times--enjoyed your discussions of the gremlins in your computer (although you've said they don't like to be called gremlins.

Note: I've just worked a double shift--545a-1015p on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so if some of my comments aren't quite coherent, that's why.

Julie said...

Thanks, Steve -

This was more a circumstantial thing than anything to do with blogging; agree risks are basically minimal; and thanks for the point about the spam filter.