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« Writing For The Masses | Main | "A Campaign With Training Wheels" »

The Fire Has Gone Out

I was never much of a Norman Mailer fan. I read The Naked and the Dead as a teenager (my parents' copy), and didn't find it that impressive. Roger Kimball obviously never heard the phrase "de mortuis nil nisi bonum"--he has many not-so-good things to say of the author/cultural icon/literary thug, who died today (he had been ill for some time).

Interestingly, of all the works that Kimball mentions in his long anti-eulogy, he doesn't talk about "Of A Fire On The Moon," his book about Apollo XI.

The reviews here of it are interesting--many of the reviewers who disliked Mailer's other work liked this one, and vice versa--his traditional fans had little use for it. I've never read it myself, and based on the reviews (including one by Roger Launius), I don't know if I'll bother now. Anyway, rest in peace. He certainly didn't live that way.

Posted by Rand Simberg at November 10, 2007 01:27 PM
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I recall reading somewhere that Mailer was a boxing match between talent and exhibitionism, with the former taking a split decision in the fifteenth round, both battered and bloody. He probably would have liked the metaphor. I was assigned "The Quick and the Dead" in school, read "Barbary Shore" later, and might have skimmed a short story or two in a collection during med school. He reminds me a little of Vidal, for no particularly good reason I can articulate before another cup of coffee, and is sometimes lumped with Bellow and Roth (because he was Jewish perhaps?) with whom he has little in common, I think.

RIP Norman.

Posted by Jane Bernstein at November 11, 2007 10:43 AM

Oops. "The Naked and the Dead" above. "Quick" is some quote from the supplement to the Bible rattling around my brain.

Posted by Jane Bernstein at November 11, 2007 10:45 AM

I read "Of A Fire on the Moon."
Wretched. Missed the point. Missed lots of points. Mailer's contempt for the engineering mind oozed from every page.

Posted by Aleta at November 11, 2007 02:57 PM

How about SCTV, which had Rick Moranis as Norman Mailer doing a testimonial for a ficticious laundry detergent. After punching his friend Gore Vidal in the nose for being a sissy, Mailer has to get the blood stain off his white shirt. The tag line (parodying Mailer's blunt writing style): "Tyde, Best Damn Detergent in the Business!"

SCTV or any of TV comedy has never done a skit at that level of society before or since because most of TV-watching culture has only a vague idea about Norman Mailer.

Posted by Paul Milenkovic at November 11, 2007 04:16 PM

It's been a long time since I've read any Mailer. I don't think I've read "Of A Fire on the Moon."

On Sunday the Washington Post ran a front page article about Mailer. There was one interesting thing about Mailer from an aerospace perspective. He went to Harvard and majored in engineering because his parents wanted him to learn something practical and he loved making model airplanes as a child.

Perhaps I'll read the Apollo book and give my perspective on it as well. Aleta, you're a wonderful person, but, correct me if I'm wrong, you're much more of an engineer than an artist. I 'm comfortable in both areas.

Posted by Chuck Divine at November 13, 2007 08:04 AM

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