Man-child Norman Mailer's voluminous sexual appetite, among other things, has been posthumously expanded, and the same is true of his squabbles with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A Washington Post Freedom of Information request on Mailer's FBI file was finally granted a year after his death, and in the 165 released pages the FBI ineffectually shadows Mailer throughout his storied career. In the ensuing report, we can only feel sympathy for the sad agent who had to slog through Barbary Shore and The Deer Park:Mailer was a veteran, having served as an Army cook in the Philippines, but in the 60s, that wasn't enough to get you off the FBI's radar screen. The ego-driven writer initially came to the attention of Hoover when he wrote something perfectly innocuous about Jacqueline Kennedy's soft-spokenness. Hoover was extraordinarily sensitive to such things, and demanded agents review all of Mailer's columns and books once he started calling out the FBI in his writing.
Blackbook has gotten their hands on a Waverly Inn matchbook (Vanity Fair ed Graydon Carter's restaurant), which says "Norman Mailer for Mayor" on it and includes a map of the "city," a cozy pretend Village bounded by "Downtown" and "Uptown." THERE BE DRAGONS. (Meanwhile, Mailer is somewhat inexplicably reprinted in U.S. News today, a 1979 rumination on the '70s.) Click for the map of the Waverly Inn's tiny world!
Oh, sure, cranky old dead writer Norman Mailer was weird about sex, as the Harvard Crimson reported last week. But how weird? Aren't you just dying to know on a Monday morning? Well, Page Six is aching to tell you: "fantasy role playing" weird, with a Hollywood fetish. The literary giant and sometime avant-guard filmmaker liked to be told certain stories:
"The storied Ivy League institution—where the Pulitzer-winning author received a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering —has purchased a treasure trove of books, papers and letters relating to Mailer from his longtime mistress, Carole Mallory, including X-rated descriptions of their red-hot bedroom sessions. 'There's a 20-page sex scene from an unpublished memoir I wrote called Making Love With Norman,' Mallory told Page Six. 'It's very steamy. Norman was a real man and he knew what he was doing.'" [Page Six]
"At Tribute, Mailer Children Recall a Family Man," is the NYT headline to the article about the tribute for the late, pugilistic writer Norman Mailer, who had six wives and nine children. It sounds like the Times is a little tentative about which tone to take; one mustn't speak ill of the dead! His family, however, didn't hold back: the photo on the left is of son Stephen lying on the floor, re-enacting a family scene (and presumably, working out some issues.)
"Norman Mailer had written his own obituary in 1979, said his son John Buffalo Mailer. The novelist's death supposedly occurred sometime in the future after his 16th wedding and 15th divorce, when he owed millions of dollars in alimony, child support and back taxes. Included were fake quotes from the likes of Andy Warhol and Truman Capote. ('He was so butch!')" [Times]
The late, ferocious writer Norman Mailer will be honored at Carnegie Hall tomorrow at 4pm. Joan Didion, Don DeLillo, Tina Brown, and, um, Sean Penn will speak. The tribute is free and open to the public, and you can pick up a ticket starting at 11 a.m. (This event brought to you by Random House.) [Norman Mailer Society]
The best nugget from Norman Mailer's personal correspondence: Tina Brown, the English editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, asked him to provide a reference for her green card bid. (It couldn't have hurt to have an endorsement from America's best writer, or someone who considered himself that.) For someone with such a reputation for pugilism, Mailer's letters are masterpieces of flattery. The writer, who died last year, produced the requisitely over-the-top letter to include in Tina Brown's immigration application, and appended an even more cloying cover note: "Don't believe a word of this. You are too attractive ever to let your head swell."
Now that he's up and died, Norman Mailer will—like Kafka, Borges, and Anna Nicole before him—forever be denied his Nobel, a prize reserved for alive people only. But, no matter! London's Literary Review has just named Mailer's pulp Hitler novel The Castle in the Forest winner of its annual Bad Sex in Fiction award. The old cad beat out young finalists Ali Smith and Christopher Rush for the honor; evidently, no need for Viagra when you've got rigor mortis. But the judges assure us this was no sympathy vote. As Review assistant editor Philip Womack told the Guardian, "It was the excrement that tipped the balance."
A lot of people have been trying to write encomiums about Norman Mailer, but it turns out that the lovable, hateable old coot actually saved everyone the trouble by writing his own, in 1979. "At the author's bedside were eleven of his fifteen ex-wives, twenty-two of his twenty-four children, and five of his seven grandchildren, of whom four are older than six of their uncles and aunts," he kidded. Well, sort of!
Ancient literary curmudgeon Norman Mailer is biting less-ancient literary curmudgeon Christopher Hitchens' styles and writing a book about God. Called On God. In it, "he finds fault with the Ten
Commandments—because adultery, he avers, may be a lesser evil than others suffered in a bad marriage." Okay, Norm, you can still get it up, we get it. [Publishers Lunch sub only]
It's not like Norman Mailer doesn't know that some of his books are way too long and overblown. It's just that he doesn't know that all of them are way too long and overblown! That's just one of the revelations we gleaned from yesterday's roundup of books that famous authors would trim the fat from if they could. We also learned that Ann Patchett thinks that George Orwell's best-known works are, respectively, "awful" and "beyond awful," that Stephen King has a cheesy, punny-science-teacher type sense of humor (duh), and that ubiquitous literary wunderdad Neal Pollack found The Satanic Verses too long by 40%. But the clear understatement o' the year award winner is Joyce Carol Oates, whose voluminous oeuvre includes approx. 400 jillion crappy books and like half of a good one (Foxfire!): "I'm sure I could think of many other titles that would benefit from being cut, including some of my own."
Writers Take Out Their Knives [NYT]
Doree and Nikola headed to the Puck Building last night for a Paris Review fundraiser. Their account, and photos, follow.
There are certain ways that one announces one's place in the social pecking order. Dalton or Spence. Summers in Nantucket, winters in Palm Beach. Really all out is the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For those truly interested in becoming a part of the literary establishment, there is the Paris Review and its annual gala. Most parties for the quarterly literary journal take place at its offices in Tribeca and are generally attended by the expected assortment of nattily attired lower-level publishing types and a couple of famous writers enticed by the free drinks or the comely assistants who drink too many of them. But the Revel, as the annual benefit is called, is an entirely different animal. Tickets started at $500 and one was welcome to purchase a table for $50,000, which is the annual salary of two assistants.