Norman Mailer 1923 – 2007

I just wanted to say a couple of words about the passing of Norman Mailer, the literary great who died this morning at the age of 84.

I’ve only read a couple of his books, but they were by far among the greatest examples of American writing I have ever found. I’d put him up there with Hemingway, Mark Twain, or anyone of that caliber.

“Tough Guys Don’t Dance,” which is not even Mailer’s best work, is one that continues to linger in my mind. Not so much the characters or the plot (it was a “fast, nasty, and fun” book written after the “The Executioner’s Song”), but the dark tone of the book. “Tough Guys” is a basic noir murder mystery, in the style of Raymond Chandler or Dashiel Hammett. The story takes place in Provincetown, Mass., which is way out on the tip of Cape Cod, but it is set “in the rawness and melancholy of the off-season.”

The setting is what lingers in my mind. I’ve been out to Provincetown two or three times, each time in the dead of winter. The beach shacks are shuttered, as are probably 90 percent of the businesses and restaurants. Icy breezes blow in off the Atlantic and when you're walking the streets there, it's hard to imagine anywhere more desolate or isolated.

I mention this novel as a way of paying tribute to Mailer. He is one of the few authors who so perfectly described a location that I wanted to go there – and go there during the time of year in which the novel was set.

The New York Times has a superb obituary for Mailer, if you want to learn a little more about the “Prince of American Letters.”

I will be back this afternoon with some music.

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At 10:42 AM , Blogger Donna T said...

Hey- found your blog doing a search for Norman Mailer (I was searching blogs to see if my own blog appeared...)-- I also blogged this morning about Mailer. I am a student of this archivist. Great blog, too- I'll stick around to read some more of your posts! -DOnna


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