Memories and reflections of a friendship with an American literary giant.
Norman Mailer (1923–2007) seems to fit the idiom “larger than life” more suitably than almost any other literary figure in American letters, an iconic figure who has been both admired and reviled. A two-time Pulitzer winner, National Book Award winner and important voice in the New Journalism movement, he was an often boisterous and controversial figure in political, social and literary circles. Mailer is also known for his role in founding the Village Voice, as well as an unsuccessful primary bid for mayor of New York in 1969. First-time author Raymond, Mailer’s personal assistant from 2003 to 2007, reveals a quieter, humbler writer in the waning years of his life at work in his seaside home in Provincetown, Mass. Glimpses of Mailer with his sixth wife, his adult children, friends and fans provide a picture of a more thoughtful, unassuming man. Raymond attempts to show Mailer as an extraordinary friend, father and neighbor, though does little to convince the reader of these qualities beyond superficial, commonplace and often bland descriptions of daily life. The mundane details—e.g., the author’s love of borscht and his antipathy toward technology—provide little illumination. Raymond’s friendship with Mailer is touching and full of admiration, but the book lacks unique description and details necessary to paint a vivid picture of this distinctive man’s life. The author offers few enduring or intriguing insights other than some brief glimpses of Mailer’s writing process for recent books like The Castle in the Forest (2007). Raymond’s own story is only sketched in with brief interjections that seem more summary than narrative and fail to enrich the story.
Fans of Mailer will be disappointed.