Norman Mailer 1923-2007: A psychic outlaw. And we liked it.

Norman Mailer died this morning. From the NY Times obit:
Mr. Mailer belonged to the old literary school that regarded novel writing as a heroic enterprise undertaken by heroic characters with egos to match. He was the most transparently ambitious writer of his era, seeing himself in competition not just with his contemporaries but with the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

In his memoir (in a way) The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing, Mailer describes the writing of his third novel, The Deer Park:
"With each week of work, bombed and sapped and charged and stoned with lush, with pot, with benny, saggy, coffee, and two packs a day, I was working, live, and over-alert, and tiring into what felt like death, afraid all the way because I had achieved the worst of vicious circles in myself...and so as the weeks went on, and publication was delayed from June to August and then to October, there was only a worn-out part of me to keep protesting into the pillows of one drug and the pinch of the other that I ought to have the guts to stop the machine, to call back the galleys, to cease--to rest, to give myself another two years and write a book which would go a little further to the end of my particular night.

But I had passed the point where I could stop."

When one publisher after another passed on The Deer Park because of “six salacious lines" Mailer refused to remove, he said, "I felt something shift to murder in me. I felt that I was an outlaw, a psychic outlaw, and I liked it."

"Every moment of one’s existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit." ~ from "Hip, Hell, and the Navigator”

Comments

The Psychic Outlaws would be a great name for a critique group, wouldn't it. I really like that. May have to adopt it.
Janette Kenny said…
Mailer was never a favorite of mine, but I love that he stood pat on those six lines. I wonder if he had that same shutzpa when he started out? I agree with Colleen on the Psychic Outlaw name for a crit group. That's catchy!
Joni Rodgers said…
A critique group or a grunge band!

I really love the book The Spooky Art, by the way. Probably doesn't reflect the writer's journey for most of us (moms can't afford to so totally deliver ourselves to our demons), but I highly recommend it for sheer over-the-top audacity of style.

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