November 13th, 2007

the mark

Ira Levin died today; Norman Mailer assumed room temperature over the weekend

Most people know him best as the author of Rosemary's Baby; I remember him for the "SF only it's by [insert famous mainstream author's name here] so it's not SF" This Perfect Day, which actually wasn't a bad little tale about one guy's revolt against Utopia. The Boys from Brazil wasn't bad either, as I recall. (AP story here.)

Norman Mailer, on the other hand...I never really understood what all the fuss was about, quite frankly. I read The Naked and the Dead, which frankly wasn't as good as the James Jones and Herman Wouk novels it's often compared to, and over the years read bits and pieces of his other works such as Ancient Evenings and The Executioner's Song. IMAO, he has a lot in common with Joseph Heller, who also shot his bolt with one great WW2 novel, but at least Heller could spell "fuck"*. I am inclined to agree with Roger Kimball, who opines that Mailer owes a lot of his fame to his "macho, adolescent radicalism" rather than to his writing.

*Legend has it that when introduced to a Manhattan grandee after his first novel became a best-seller, Mailer was greeted by the observation: "Oh, yes. You're the young man who can't spell "fuck".
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