Monday, November 12, 2007

Laughing past the graveyard

Christopher Hitchens demonstrates again in an obit piece on Norman Mailer why he's always worth reading,

Mailer also continually ran a great risk that very few are willing to run. I mean the danger of simply seeming ridiculous. He once nearly lost an eye in a bar fight, because he thought someone had implied that there was something homosexual, not about him, but about his dog! ("Nobody calls my dog a faggot.") He got whimpering drunk and made a complete idiot of himself on The Dick Cavett Show with Gore Vidal and Janet Flanner, and then reprinted the whole transcripted humiliation as part of an article. On that occasion, and on many, many others, beginning with An American Dream, he manifested an obsession with sodomy that was something a bit more (and perhaps even a bit less) than macho. I once made the mistake of asking him about this on a television show with Germaine Greer: Why was he so fixated on penetratio per anum and its occasions, male-on-male as well as male-on-female? Seizing my copy of his terrible novel Tough Guys Don't Dance, he scrawled an inscription that vowed revenge, and later gave an interview in which he said that the book had been ill-received in London because of a coterie of queer reviewers organized by me, Martin Amis, and Ian Hamilton. (Amis and I contemplated writing a hurt response, saying that this was very unfair to Hamilton.)
I'd comment myself on the passing of Norman Mailer but I confess I have never read any of his work. The tragedy of American culture is that so much that is important goes unread while Ayn Rand continues to sell.

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