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Norman Mailer, 1923-2007

Filed under: In Memoriam   Tagged: , , , , , , ,

On the New Yorker website, Louis Menand reflects on the late Norman Mailer’s life and career. Mailer himself rarely contributed to The New Yorker, though. Until Tina Brown’s tenure, Mailer had published only two short poems in the magazine, both in 1961. There are just five bylines in all. As one of America’s most important postwar writers and a frequent object of public attention, he was far more often written about; a search on his name in The Complete New Yorker yields more than 100 hits.

Indeed, it would appear that Mailer had little interest in writing for the magazine. Perhaps he considered that a New Yorker byline would be incidental to his various projects—to remake American literature, to upend the battle of the sexes, to provide a channel whereby citizens could regain authenticity. Nevertheless, he’s enough of an icon to have served as the subject of a New Yorker cartoon—eight times. This 1997 Lee Lorenz drawing is apropos.

Mailer’s reputation doesn’t rest primarily on his novels (although I still plan to read The Naked and the Dead). Provocateur, mayoral candidate, co-founder of The Village Voice, journalist of genius, he did not squander his tenure on this planet. —Martin Schneider


After reading the most recent Paris Review interview with Mailer, my urge to read more of him was renewed. (Hey, it looks like you can download the 1964 interview at their website.) What the heck are the poems about??

Meanwhile, the New Yorker website has posted a good long piece on Mailer by David Denby—“The Contender,” from 1998—as well as two Mailer-themed Talks, one by Lillian Ross and Brendan Gill (1948!), one by Mark Singer (2007).

The poems are a little strange, both metaphorical and both “charged,” vigorous and confrontational. It’s a bit like reading Aesop if you had the feeling that Aesop might slug you if you didn’t react the right way.

Sadly enough, only his death inspires me to pull out the one book I have in my library…maybe I should go out and buy another. Good that Sig. Wolcott praises the man.

He’s an odd one that Mailer, to me, anyway. He’s sort of ensconced somewhere in btwn the truly talented of yesterday and the post modern way of entering the consciousness via sheer protean will.

I shudder to think when my uber idol Gore Vidal passes…gawd…

Mailer, what a force of nature…c’est vrai.

Our shoddy media is reporting in obits that Mailer wrote a 1963 short story called ‘The Witch of Westport” for the New Yorker that was optioned by ABC-TV for the creation of the sitcom Bewitched in 1964.

what? where did this come from?

Until Tina Brown’s 1980s tenure, Mailer had published only two short poems in the magazine, both in 1961. There are just five bylines in all from 1980s -2007.

Mailer’s story, The Witch of Westport was originally published in Harper’s in 1963, NOT the New Yorker. It featured an urban enchantress called Cassandra who had to balance her real world chores with her metaphysical responsibilities. You can still find copies of the magazine on eBay.

I would be grateful to know if anyone has actually seen “The Witch of Westport” in a 1963 Harper’s magazine. I was his archivist and am now writing his biography and can find no record of this story in his papers. The online Harper’s archive does not list it, but it only gives selected articles. Finally, Mailer also contributed a long piece on Richard Nixon in the May 20, 1974,”Talk of the Town.” It was his first prose contribution to the magazine.

michael lennonJanuary 23, 2009

There is no record of Mailer writing a short story, titled “The Witch of Westport” for Harper’s, New York, of the New Yorker. Mailer wrote only nonfiction ( THE ARMIES OF THE NIGHT, MIAMI AND THE SIEGE OF CHICAGO, THE PRISONER OF SEX) for Willie Morrris, Harper’s brilliant editor during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Indeed, he never published any short stories after “The Last Night” appeared in Esquire in December 1963.

michael lennonJanuary 23, 2009

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