Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Norman Mailer Dead At 84
11/10/2007 09:52 AM
Renowned author, critic and journalist Norman Mailer died early Saturday.
Copyright © 2008 NY1 News
Mailer's official biographer says he died of acute renal failure at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Mailer, 84, gained fame over nearly six decades of work, writing dozens of books including “The Naked and the Dead” and “The Executioner's Song.”
NY1's Budd Mishkin filed the following report.
You could argue that there was no bigger name on the American literary scene for the second half of the 20th century than Norman Mailer.
Mailer wrote non-fiction and novels, plays and screenplays, poetry and articles for all types of magazines.
"[He was] a fierce writer — look at the amount he has turned out, huge,” said author and friend Jimmy Breslin. “And the ideas he gave his country, the nation, those pages that he wrote, read them now, they are filled with sparks flying out at you, as if from a fire.”
"No matter what kind of night he had, what kind of drinking he did, who he was with, how late he stayed up, the next morning he was ready for work and was in shape somehow,” said author Gay Talese, who befriended Mailer in the late fifties.
Through the years, Mailer became almost as well known for his image, and what many saw as a combative personality. He was married six times, had nine children, and had public confrontations with writers and feminists. The story goes that he once even stuck his second wife with a pen knife at a party, though she declined to press charges.
"But I don't see that as prevailing over the man who had so many things that made him human, some quirky and demonic, but most life affirming and loyal to his friends and caring about and helping people,” said Talese.
Talese says that unlike many writers, Mailer socialized with all types of people.
“Mailer went up and down the social register. He was down there with pimps and prize fighters,” he said. "When you were around him, you didn’t think he was ever looking over your shoulder to see who was in the room who was more important than you. He was a very egalitarian individual.”
In 1969, Mailer ran for mayor with Jimmy Breslin as his running mate for City Council president. Breslin says he initially thought the idea would fade, but Mailer was serious.
"He had gone to a fat farm Upstate, where you drink water for four days or something, and he came down ready for a fight. He was going to run, so we went and did it,” said Breslin.
He grew up in Brooklyn, went to Harvard, fought in WWII, and then spent the next sixty years in the spotlight, mostly for his work and occasionally for what happened away from his work. What made him tick?
"The desire to be somebody and do something and to leave quite a bit for what comes after, just a sense of life, taking life — don't sit there and let it pass you by,” said Breslin.
Mailer did not let life pass him by.
- Budd Mishkin