1984

Visits Russia for the first time in March; returns with Norris in June.

In June, receives an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Mercy College in White Plains, NY.

On 11 July, he is elected president of the PEN American Center for a two-year term.

Preceded by excerpts in Vanity Fair, Tough Guys Don’t Dance, a murder mystery set in Provincetown, is published by Random House on 20 August. It also becomes a best seller and sells over a million paperback copies.

He is inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters on 7 December.

Begins work on his CIA novel, Harlot’s Ghost.

Norman Mailer (c.1985)

in Days | 103 Words

84.35

The Last Night. New York: Targ Editions. Story, 31 pp., $100. No dedication. Limited edition of 250 copies. Rpt: From the December 1963 Esquire (63.39), with the incorrect notation that it appeared there in December 1962; 66.11, 67.11, 82.19.

84.34

“Norman Mailer: Fact and Fiction.” Interview by Harvey Aronson. PD: Sunday Magazine of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 16 December, 4-6, 22-23. Solid interview that deals not with how Mailer lives, but how he writes. Asked if he outlined Tough Guys Don’t Dance (84.17) in his head, Mailer said: “More or less. The nearer I’d come to the approaching chapter, the more outline I’d get in my head. But I never try to tap my head, so to speak…I respect my unconscious. I walk around it.”

84.33

“Fast Track: Vital Statistics, Norman Mailer.” Interview by Cheryl Lavin. Parade, 16 December, 7. Mailer fills in the blanks to a set of standard questions—age, birthplace, favorite foods and movie, etc.

84.32

Huckleberry Finn, Alive at 100.” New York Times Book Review, 9 December, 1, 36-37. Essay. Mailer’s only extended comment on nineteenth-century American literature, and one of his finest literary essays. Rpt: Chicago Tribune Magazine, 27 January 1985; 85.12, 98.7, MO.

84.31

“Mailer and [Erskine] Caldwell Join Academy’s Select 50.” Article by Herbert Mitgang. New York Times, 8 December, 13. Report on the 7 December induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters of two new members to fill the chairs of departed members. Mailer inherited chair 19, last held by Tennessee Williams and before that by Alexander Calder.

Mailer: “Maybe some of his [Williams’s] talent will rub off on me. I’d like to do a good play before I die—before I give up the seat.” In a citation by the Academy, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. said: “In a career of living dangerously, he has shown qualities of passion, imagination, literary power and psychological subtlety that will surely make posterity regard him as one of the giants—if at times a wounded giant—of our age.”

See 98.4.

84.30

“Norman Mailer: The Prisoner of Celebrity.” Article-interview by Mark Bowden. Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, 2 December, 40-44. Another report, presumably the last, based on the May dinner party thrown by Random House to promote 84.17, and a small news conference at Random House three months later when 84.17 had risen to the middle of most bestseller lists. The interview is valuable for Mailer’s long statement about his unwillingness to plot his books out ahead of time: “Knowing what the plot of my book was going to be in detail would be like being married to someone whose every habit you knew.” See 84.5, 84.6, 84.8.

84.29

“Norman Mailer: Face to Face.” Interview by Dan Treisman and Robin Davis. Isis: Oxford University Magazine, November or December, 8-9. Unremarkable interview in which Mailer touches several subjects lightly, including 84.17, Ernest Hemingway, his theology, his image and Margaret Thatcher: “She’s probably the best politician I’ve ever seen at work anywhere.”

84.28

Letter to the editor. Esquire, November, 12. Letter of congratulation on the fiction in the August issue.

84.27a

“Mailer’s Energy Peps Up Union Proceedings.” Article-interview by Peter Aspeden. Cambridge [U.K.] Evening News, 22 October. Mailer criticizes modernity while visiting the Cambridge Union: “All of our achievements are deteriorations of our lives—super highways which take all the joy out of driving, airports which make the air wretched, carpets made out of hostile vinyl fibers which spear into your feet. It’s kind of depressing.”