Perhaps if you're lucky enough, a few times in life you might feel like you have found yourself in the presence of Greatness and I guess if there is a Higher Power that succors us away at the end, to someplace beyond our mortal coil, then this morning that Power, whose literary taste in recent years has often been called into question, despite preternaturally valuing a good yarn, will indeed find itself in the presence of greatness, as once about 10 years ago, did I.
Laundry List then, in case you didn't know, can't type Norman Mailer into Wikipedia or oh well missed something. By and large his books were outsize, or plain fat. It was his life that was truly outsize. Born. Fought in World War 2, wrote 'The Naked and the Dead' about his experience, studied on the GI bill in Paris, founded the Village Voice. Married 6 times and stabbed at least one wife, (what do we know) won Pulitzer prizes plural, feuded with Gore Vidal (whom I for a time thought had invented well, everything) and generally lived the consummate American Life.
About ten years ago I saw him address the Writers Bloc in Los Angeles. He was their pope. I can't remember the girl I went with, I can't remember who interviewed him, I can't remember the seat fabric, the lighting, I can't remember anything except how piss-poor their technology was. I do remember he was less physically robust than I'd imagined he would be, as if he could never age. As if he would always be the fighter that won. I remember Just awe. The same quiet ah shucks it is good to be alive (if you are that someone else) awe I also felt when I met John Waters briefly or saw Prince signing autographs in full Prince regalia close up in Tower Records in London, or when, well, there have been moments, breathtaking moments. But my Norman Mailer moment... Yeah, it was a good one. He spoke, gosh he could have read bubblegum wrappers and it would've had the force of gravity; Instead he read from Ancient Evenings and it was simply exquisite. But I wonder whether he'd care for any hushed, revered tones at all. He's an icon now for people who are mainly dead.
Anyway. Along the way he wrote the best damned sports book ever, one that is never mentioned enough in and around sports. The Fight - the shenanigans leading up to and enveloping boxings greatest ever night, the Ali/Foreman rumble in the jungle, Zaire '74. I know for most people reading this, Mailer won't be missed much. But he will be missed.
March sees a greatly expanded reissue of Elliott Smith's most critically acclaimed album Either/Or