Norman Mailer

Another Saturday in Sumbawa. School is moving quickly as usual, and I’m trying to get reports started (and finished) because we have to turn them in early here which I always find somewhat disconcerting. I’m hoping that this Saturday we have power for the whole day because I have a long list of things to do, most of which involve using the computer.

First off is reading the obits of Norman Mailer. Reading Mailer (or reading about Mailer) always makes me want to get back to writing, but I can’t seem to find the energy to sustain much other than a short blog or some updates on the cyberbali.com site. The tremendous amount of energy I had 18 months ago when I started writing travel articles seems to have dissipated as the workload at work has increased steadily (we teach an extra period a day this year which, as any classroom teacher can tell you, is a fairly significant increase). I’m looking forward to “retirement” just so I can see if I can do any significant writing once I have all the time I need.

Right, back to Mailer. He had so much energy in the late 60s and early 70s when he seemed to be writing something new every six months. It was interesting to see that all the kids and ex-wives and the resulting bills fueled a lot of Mailer’s production. A fairly common theme among famous writers if you read their bios and see the extraordinary amount of time that they spent worrying about money; often churning out book reviews and other projects that they weren’t really interested in just to bring some cash in to the house.

Most of my Mailer was given away in 98 when I quit working in Papua and had all my belongings that had been stored in San Francisco sent to my sister to sell, keep, or give away. I only have one Mailer book left – his novel on the CIA, Harlot’s Ghost, (a monster book that I bought in Bali years ago) which I found fascinating, but was left somewhat disappointed at the ending with the promise (which I found hard to believe) that more would come in the future.

It was Mailer’s early work, The Naked and the Dead, The White Negro, and Advertisements for Myself, that really affected me as a teenager and budding hipster and hippie. But, when Armies of the Night came out, I was just floored with the possibilities of writing – what came to be called The New Journalism. Looking back on my first real academic work – my Senior Honor’s Thesis – I can see where Mailer influenced me. I took a creative writing course during that time with a wonderful teacher (whose name escapes me for the moment) who, after reading one of my Mailer influenced short stories, told me that I had the potential to be a writer. Visions of Mailer danced through my head, but after shopping the story around to a few magazines – Playboy was nice enough to send a note on their rejection slip that praised the story but said it was better suited to a magazine with a younger readership; I sent it on to a teen literary magazine whose editor was also nice enough to send a note saying that she liked the story but it was a bit too “adult” for her magazine and suggested that I send it to a college literary magazine. Life seemed to catch up with me and the story was moved to a desk drawer where it sat for years until I finally lost it during one of my many moves during my 20s.

When I started a novel years later, even though I hadn’t read Mailer in a few years, I could see his influence in the rhythm of the language even though the structure of the novel owed more to the 18th Century than to Mailer.

Well, it was a good run Norman. Godspeed.

 

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~ by drbrucepk on November 18, 2007.

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