Of Pulitizer Winner and cultural icon Norman Mailer, the LA Times’ Elaine Woo writes, “as critic Alfred Kazin once noted, Mailer, by writing himself into the narrative, could play the “gladiator in the center of the ring,” a fitting metaphor for a man notorious for solving literary disputes with his fists.” To say nothing, of course, of Mailer’s efforts to support the nascent writing efforts of True Hoop’s (Jack) Henry Abbott. From Charles McGrath’s New York Times’ obituary :
At different points in his life Mr. Mailer was a prodigious drinker and drug taker, a womanizer, a devoted family man, a would-be politician who ran for mayor of New York, a hipster existentialist, an antiwar protester, an opponent of women™s liberation and an all-purpose feuder and short-fused brawler, who with the slightest provocation would happily engage in head-butting, arm-wrestling and random punch-throwing. Boxing obsessed him and inspired some of his best writing. Any time he met a critic or a reviewer, even a friendly one, he would put up his fists and drop into a crouch.
Gore Vidal, with whom he frequently wrangled, once wrote: œMailer is forever shouting at us that he is about to tell us something we must know or has just told us something revelatory and we failed to hear him or that he will, God grant his poor abused brain and body just one more chance, get through to us so that we will know. Each time he speaks he must become more bold, more loud, put on brighter motley and shake more foolish bells. Yet of all my contemporaries I retain the greatest affection for Norman as a force and as an artist. He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements.