|Norman Mailer (CHRISTINA PABST/FILE 2007)|
ON MONDAY evening I attended Norman Mailer's wake in Provincetown. He was lying in state peacefully, surrounded by family and friends. The children of his children were there. Here is a time to know that the writer was a family man and a loyal friend.
Yesterday morning I read the Globe's nasty editorial "Advertisements for himself." You cite Mailer's "The White Negro," published in the Village Voice in 1957, as a defining moment in his long career, and suggest that its arguments contributed to rising crime in America. Why? Because "ideas have consequences," as your writer, Thomas Gagen, intones. Yes, but a pen is not a knife to stab someone when he is down.
FIRST, I should disclose that I am Norman Mailer's archivist and authorized biographer. I write in response to Mark Feeney's obituary of Mailer ("Norman Mailer, self-titled king of the literary hill, dies at 84," Page A1, Nov. 11).
Feeney writes, "Many of his books, quickly written for money or attention or both, do not stand out at all." The five books that Mailer published in a spurt from 1967 to 1971 - "Why Are We in Vietnam?", "The Armies of the Night," "Miami and the Siege of Chicago," "Of a Fire on the Moon," and "The Prisoner of Sex" - were all written at white heat, a couple of them in two months' time. All five were nominated for the National Book Award; "Armies" won it, along with a Pulitzer Prize and a Polk Award. Mailer never wrote faster or with more ardency and insight. In 1979 he published "The Executioner's Song," also written at top speed, and won a second Pulitzer. Did Mailer ever write quickly for money and attention? Yes, of course; don't most writers? But he also wrote out of a deep, searing regard for his country, perhaps his deepest motive. Feeney's comment is patently unfair to the memory of one of our greatest writers.
J. MICHAEL LENNON