Norman Mailer’s daughter writes about her relationship with him.
“I had been born [in 1949] to a man who became a celebrity at the age of twenty-five,” writes the author, a psychoanalyst based in Santiago, Chile. In this subdued, reflective memoir about her famous author father, Norman (1923-2007), she psychoanalyzes herself as she offers up a conflicted portrait of their relationship. Her father married six times and had numerous affairs and nine children. It was all part of the “Mailer routine. One in, the other out.” He was always busy writing or enjoying his boisterous public image and didn’t have much time for his children. Her story, told in dry, lackluster prose, is about trying to find herself while under the large and imposing shadow of her father. When she was 8, he told her he “hadn’t really loved me when I was born.” Susan was hurt and developed a “tough-kid persona.” Her early years were spent in New York, with her father, and in Mexico, with her mother, Bea, whom Norman divorced in 1952. The author loved her life with her mother and new father, and she enjoyed school and learning Spanish. Eventually, she would marry happily and have children. She writes about her father’s drinking and pot smoking in the 1960s, his mood swings, and the “The Trouble”—when he stabbed his second wife, Adele, twice with a penknife. The author also discusses her father’s work. An American Dream both “repelled” and “fascinated” her. The Armies of the Night was “a brilliant piece of journalism and an innovative experiment.” The Executioner’s Song, her favorite, “blew me away.” While watching him edit his film Maidstone, she felt like an “unwilling witness” to his “sexual fantasies.” The author fondly recalls her annual visits to the Big House in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where the large Mailer family gathered and where her dying father sought forgiveness.
An affable memoir of superficial interest to those grappling with the Mailer mystique.