Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembering Norman Mailer

Yesterday November 10th, Norman Mailer died in New York City. This country has lost a great literary figure whose inquiring mind challenged the conventions, and whose sharp pen rattled a couple of generations, while providing food for thought, for gossip, for debate, for delight. I have lost a friend.

I met Norman Mailer in 1963 and could count him as a friend in the subsequent decades. I can recall countless memorable occasions at the Mailers' apartment in Brooklyn Heights and in their sea front house in Provincetown in the 1960's and 1970's. It was there Norman taught my oldest son to swim.

I was sitting in the Brooklyn Heights watching television with the Mailer family one Sunday afternoon in late 1963 when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, President John F. Kennedy's assassin. Norman saw the unscripted murder as it was happening and immediately understood its implications. For the next several years I would hear Norman discussing Kennedy's assassination from every possible angle, especially the conspiracy theories.

When I resigned my job as publicity director of Hawthorn Books because the company was sold, Norman recommended me to his publisher. At the time he was in Miami covering one of the boxing championships. He did not let distance deter him from helping out a friend.

Norman recommended my husband Gregory Hemingway to his agent when Greg decided to write a memoir in 1974. He then offered to write an introduction for the book, PAPA: A PERSONAL MEMOIR, which received the New York Times Book Review front page slot.

Thirty years later Mailer wrote a blurb for my own memoir, RUNNING WITH THE BULLS: My Years with the Hemingways.

Last year Mailer said of my illustrator son Edward's little cocktail book: HEMINGWAY AND BAILEY'S BARTENDING GUIDE TO GREAT AMERICAN WRITERS, "I like everything about this book except that I am not in it."

Farewell, Norman, you may be gone but you will not be forgotten.

3 comments:

Jeremy said...

Hi Valerie -
I was in New York two weeks ago, and, of course, in a city of eight and a half million, I ran into one of the few people I know, your son Edward. I read your piece in the Smithsonian and enjoyed it greatly. I told Edward that I had read it and he told me about your blog. I finally remembered to look it up, and I'm so glad I did.
I'll be making this site a regular stop.
Hope all is well.
Regards,
Jeremy Jirik

Anonymous said...

Hey mum,
I'd forgotten the story about JFK and the Mailer's. I will share it with Mark B.
Much love,
E

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