Making Ends Meet: An Interview with Norman Mailer by James Campbell

James Campbell

Making Ends Meet: An Interview with Norman Mailer

 

A lot of funny stories about Norman Mailer have reached us from across the Atlantic through the years, each one adding to the increasingly complex sum of his legend: Mailer Stabs Wife, Mailer Runs for Mayor, blacks the eye of Gore Vidal, gets arrested for disorderly conduct, boxed John Updike at two a.m. on a New York street corner, forces his dinner guests into rope-climbing races, gets married, divorced and married again all in one day … The tales are sometimes amusing, often bewildering, occasionally infuriating. Read by Mailer’s own lights, some can be seen as exercises in extremism; at worst, they tend to confirm our worst suspicions, that for all his great gifts and wisdom, he is the victim of childish impulses which drive him to regard every form of human conduct as a contest in which he must triumph or die.

Mailer has assumed many challenges in his time – he has even thought of running for President – the biggest of all being to prove himself the literary world’s Number One. ‘There are days when I think of myself as being the best writer in America,’ he once jabbed at

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