Joyce Carol Oates Salutes Norman Mailer

From The Daily Beast:

NormI became acquainted with Norman Mailer in the last 10 or 15 years of his life, at a time when he was, shall we say, mellower than he’d been. By this time he’d been married six times and was at this point married to Norris Church—as you all know Norris was one of the most beautiful women … And her physical beauty was matched by an inner, spiritual beauty—she was really quite extraordinary. I knew them, if not well, as a couple. The first time I’d met Norman was at an event at Lincoln Center—I think it was a fundraiser for a literacy organization. Norman was the MC. And I was one of a number of writers who were giving readings. When I came out on stage, Norman was gracious and shook my hand and introduced me by saying, “Joyce Carol Oates has written this remarkable book On Boxing.” He let that sink in to the audience, then added, “It’s so good I’d almost thought that I had written it myself.” And there were waves of good-natured laughter from the audience and Norman seemed just slightly puzzled, like—Why is that funny? Norman had meant his remark as the highest praise. In speaking of Norman Mailer we’re speaking of the male ego raised to the very highest, without which we wouldn’t have civilization, I’m sure.

I have a second Norman Mailer story which made an enormous impression on me when I was a younger writer. Mailer had had an extraordinary success, as you all know, with his first novel The Naked and the Dead, which was published in 1948. Like his distinguished predecessor Lord Byron, he woke up and discovered that he was famous … When you achieve such fame at a young age, your life is irrevocably changed. So it was. Norman became famous at 26—but he didn’t understand that fame brings with it infamy—in his case, The Naked and the Dead was considered pornography in some quarters. It rose to the top of bestseller lists in the United States and in the U.K. and remained there for 62 weeks. Then Norman said—(I’m not sure if I am quoting him accurately—Norman had a way of speaking about himself in the third person, which women don’t do; you know there’s something strange when you hear someone speaking of himself as he—so I probably can’t precisely mimic this)—but Norman said of the experience, “Part of Mailer thought he was the greatest writer since Tolstoy, but another part of him thought that he was an imposter—he didn’t know how to write at all.”

More here.