The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘literary heros’

Tough Guys Don’t Dance

November 30, 2010 | by

Norman Mailer in 1949. Photograph by John H. Popper.

Why can’t we keep our literary heroes where they belong, at the top of the bookshelf next to all the others? And why must we ache for their approval, their admiration, their love?

I can’t help but think of an anecdote about Norman Mailer, who was provoked one day to reach out to his hero, big Papa himself. Mailer had just completed The Deer Park and sent off a copy inscribed

To Ernest Hemingway:

—because finally after all these years I am deeply curious to know what you think …

—but if you do not answer, or if you answer with the kind of crap you use to answer unprofessional writers, sycophants, brown-nosers, etc. then fuck you …

Norman Mailer

The book came back to Mailer unopened, stamped “Address Unknown—Return to Sender,” in Spanish. (See Mailer’s Advertisements for Myself for a complete telling in hard-earned italics.)

I have my own relationship with one of my heroes, and the mere fact that I call it a “relationship” is in itself deeply sick. I’m veiling a juvenile obsession, hiding behind the very word: hero. In truth, this relationship consists of a few encounters, some good, some bad, the first of which happened one night at Hunter College when I was an M.F.A. student.

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My Lunch With Terry Southern

June 22, 2010 | by

Photograph by Pud Gadiot

As most editors eventually learn to their chagrin, encounters with one’s literary heroes usually end up as disappointing and deflating experiences. But in the early eighties, I had a lunch with the great Terry Southern that was sheer perfection on every level.

As a sixties adolescent of the standard issue sort I had my psyche and to some extent my erotic imagination comandeered by Southern. There was Candy, of course, one of the great dirty books (or “dbs,” as Terry called them) of our time. Oh, how my idiot friends and I enjoyed repeating lines like “Give me your hump!” and “When I was in Italy, I got so much hot Italian cock that I stopped menstruating and started minestroneing.” into the ambient Brooklyn air at an inappropriately loud volume. But even better, to me, was The Magic Christian, wherein the multimillionaire prankster Guy Grand oh so grandly and ingeniously sends up the stupid adult world in ways I could only dream about. I must have read it in its Bantam paperback edition a dozen times. And mirabile dictu, when I became an editor at Penguin in the early eighties, I discovered that both of these books were out of print (wtf?) and was able to repay Terry Southern the favor by arranging to reissue them in trade paperback. Read More »

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