“Mailer: He’s ‘Not Finished Yet.’” Article-interview by Lloyd Sachs. Chicago Sun-Times, 30 October, Sec. 2 (“Lifestyle”), 31. Mailer compares his work to that of a cobbler—”You’re doing your best to make good shoes for the sheer sake of the craft”—in this breezy piece with a few comments on 91.26, and a rehearsal of the high points of Mailer’s life and career.
“Mailer Gets to Talk Back to N.Y. Times.” Article by David Streitfeld. Washington Post, 30 October. Report on Mailer’s meeting with New York Times Book Review editor, Rebecca Sinkler, and Times managing editor, Joseph Lelyveld, on 28 October to seek a chance to reply to John Simon’s 29 September review of 91.26. Mailer was successful and his response (91.48) appeared on 17 November. A Times spokesman, William Adler, said Mailer’s piece “is unusual but I don’t believe it’s unprecedented. It’s in the context of a literary dialogue.” Simon said if he were running a book review, “I would publish whatever review I published and that would be it. If the author didn’t like it, tough.” Mailer had one word for the Times session: “transmogrificational.” See 91.14–91.16, 91.19.
“Mailer Likes That Dangling Participle in His New Novel.” Article by unidentified writer. (Illinois) State Journal-Register, 26 October, 2. After quoting the first sentence of Harlot’s Ghost (91.26), this article gives Mailer’s faxed response to criticism of it in a 25 October Associated Press story in the paper. The sentence reads: “On a late winter evening in 1983, while driving through fog along the Maine coast, recollections of old campfires began to drift into the March mist, and I thought of the Algonquin tribe who dwelt near Bangor a thousand years ago.” In reply, Mailer says:
Let’s not put the blame on the copy editor. The dangling modifier in the first sentence of Harlot’s Ghost was my decision, repeated several times over several months, to keep the sentence intact. I like the rhythm as it stands. I could not find a better one by fixing the sentence grammatically. For that matter, the meaning is clear. We often live in recollections while driving a car; it can even seem as if the recollections are steering the vehicle. Dangling participles can offend a few readers intensely, but the damage caused might add up to less than the rupture occasioned by straightening out the grammar and wrecking the mood. I hope I learned a long time ago from Melville, Mark Twain, and Faulkner, among others, that syntax is what you obey until there is some better reason to ignore it. Future editions will appear with the sentence unchanged.
Grammarians may legitimately disagree on whether this is a bonafide dangling participle.
“Life’s Like That.” Article-interview by unidentified writer. Economist, 26 October, 115. In London to promote the British publication of 91.26, Mailer meets the press at Brown’s Hotel and talks about the architecture of his novel. It has “an excluded middle,” he says. “That’s good because it gives the reader some scope. The missing part shapes up in his mind. Life is like that.”
“Advertisements: On the Publicity Trail with Norman Mailer.” Article-interview by Maureen O’Brien. Publishers’ Weekly, 25 October, 22- 24. O’Brien sticks with Mailer throughout 7 October as he moves through a dizzying round of interviews accompanied by Random House publicist, Peter Vertes: the “Today” show; WCBS News Radio’s “Book Beat”; a local talk show, “New York and Co.”; the Miami Herald; National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”; for a Canadian television documentary on Henry Miller; and, in the evening, on Debra Norville’s syndicated talk show. O’Brien notices that “he never answers the same question the same way twice.” Mailer says that “he plans to start writing the sequel to Harlot’s Ghost [91.26] this summer (‘All I have now are a lot of notes’) after he puts the finishing touches on his ‘short, interpretive biography’ of Picasso” (95.38).
“Mailer Muzzles His Mouthpiece.” Article-interview by Bruce Cook. L.A. Life, 22 October, 18-19. Cook’s by-line is followed by “Special to the [New York] Daily News,” indicating where this piece first appeared. Cook, an old Mailer hand, places Harlot’s Ghost (91.26) in the context of Mailer’s long career, and gets him to talk about his protagonist, Harry Hubbard.
“Page Six: Knife? Nice! Norm Told Styron.” Column by Frank DiGiacomo and Joanna Molloy. New York Post, 21 October, 6. Mailer and William Styron deny that Mailer, in 1954, spoke with admiration about an acquaintance stabbing a woman, as reported in Carl Rollyson’s biography of Mailer (91.22). Mailer says, “My reaction was not admiration, but awe. I was bewildered. I felt that it was absolutely outside my compass. I wondered, ‘How does anyone get to that fever pitch?’ The irony is that I learned how.” See 60.11.
“Mailer’s American Dream.” Article-interview by Patricia Holt. San Francisco Chronicle, 17 October, Sec. E (“Datebook”), pp. 1, 4. Mailer sticks closely to the nature of the CIA and his motives for writing 91.26 in this relatively brief piece: He says that the CIA is “the nearest thing Americans have to sophisticated evil. Of course, the paradox is that the best people working for the government work for the CIA. So I wanted to explore the American establishment at its top and at its best.”
“He’s Back to the Old Haunts.” Article-interview by Bill Bell. (New York) Daily News, 16 October, 1, 40; cover photograph of Mailer. Light piece with brief quotes from Mailer on 91.26, drinking, fame, the Brooklyn Dodgers, his reading habits and the questions of reporters: “They ask the same questions,” he says, “and I give them different answers.”
“Soft Spots in a Tough Guise.” Article-interview by Peter Stothard. Times Saturday (London), 12 October, 16-17; cover photographs of Mailer by Graham Wood. In preparation for the British publication of 91.26, Mailer talks (in New York) about the novel, the CIA, capitalism, Fidel Castro, alcohol and drugs and the U.S.: “Are we a good country or a bad one? I mean, are we a good country with all sorts of hideous things wrong with us, or are we essentially a bad country with lots of superficially positive aspects?”