it seems as if i just posted on a memorial service a few days ago! on wednesday, a memorial service was held at carnegie hall for norman mailer - l'enfant terrible of the new york city literary scene. he died on november 10, 2007 and, if i was surprised that the william f. buckley memorial to took over a month to arrange, the mailer service took 6 months to assemble. not that time spent to organize a memorial service matters in the least, but the timing of the buckley-mailer services, within a week of each other, was a remarkable coincidence.
i enjoyed norman mailer's work tremendously. but his personal life was another matter entirely, and is subject to debate. mailer's bouncing between self-indulgence and self-destruction, often left his fans and foes alike, completely speechless. still, his literary output was tremendous. "the gospel according to the son," the life of christ retold, was one of the most sublime and powerful things mailer wrote. it's an example of the sheer mastery of the craft of writing that he possessed. and yet i could hardly sit still long enough to read "ancient evenings" the long anticipated book that he finally published in the early 1980's. it was the occasional fumble in an otherwise exceptional literary career.
plus, norman mailer was a brooklyn boy - following in the footsteps of such greats as walt whitman, henry miller, and arthur miller (to reel off just a few literary luminaries from the great state of brooklyn). that alone makes him interesting to me. but his connection to william buckley was fascinating; aside from the fact that mailer and buckley both ran quixotic campaigns for nyc mayor. the two often debated each other, mailer appeared on buckley's pbs program firing line, and buckley wrote of their personal relationship in his memorial to mailer. that two very different people maintained such a long-running friendship says a lot about their individual character.
then there is mailer's relationship with jack kerouac and the beat generation, but that's for yet another post.
norman mailer, r.i.p.
postscript: the sunday "week in review" section of the new york times ran "requiem for two heavyweights," an article that expressed similar sentiments about timing of the two memorial services - and the connection between the two "heavyweights!" it's a great read!