Mailer does two interviews (one in New York and the other in Playboy) with his son John Buffalo on politics, protest, marijuana and the Clinton-Lewinsky affairs, among other topics; these will become the basis for their jointly written 2006 book, The Big Empty: Dialogues on Politics, Sex, God, Boxing, Morality, Myth, Poker and Bad Conscience in America.
In August, Letters on An American Dream, 1963-69, a collection of 76 letters concerning Mailer’s fourth novel, edited by Lennon, is published.
His interview with Richard Stratton, a friend since the early 1970s, concerning his views on marijuana, perhaps his most extensive comment on the topic, appears in the November-December issue of High Times.
Now living full-time in Provincetown, Mailer continues work on The Castle in the Forest, and hosts Texas hold ’em poker games several nights a week.
“Norman Mailer: Why I Am Protesting the Presidency.” Interview by Amy Goodman. Transcript of interview on radio station WOMR in Provincetown on the eve of the 2004 Democratic convention, June 26-29. Mailer endorses Sen. John Kerry, and lambastes President Bush as a toady of corporations. He also speaks at length about the efficacy of the 1967 March on the Pentagon.
“ ‘A Certain Grim Pleasure’: Norman Mailer Speaks with Longtime Friend James Toback about Film.” V Life 397 (December 2004-January 2005), 76-79, 114-15. In a wide-ranging discussion on film and the horrors of modern life, Mailer also explains how the writing process has changed for him over the years: “I used to pride myself on the white heat of my first drafts . . . now it’s not like that. My first drafts are much below the final product.”
“Reflections on Courage, Morality and Sexual Pleasure: A Spirited Exchange between Father and Son.” Conversation on these topics between Mailer and his son, John Buffalo. Playboy, December, 86-88, 98, 190-98. Important piece, with polite debate ad Mailer’s fullest discussion of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. Rpt: (partial) 06.2.
“The Lion on Canes.” Article by Richard Lee Fulgham. Posted 18 November. Account of a meeting with Mailer on 13 November 2004 at the Mailer Society meeting in Provincetown. Fulgham calls the members of the Society “sycophants,” and pushes his way into Mailer’s presence at an event at Mailer’s home. He asks Mailer if he will read some of his book, The Hogs of Cold Harbor, and tells Mailer, “We’re two of the last literary lions in America.” Mailer tells Fulgham that he is also a sycophant, but is gentle with him and says that when he was young, he would have acted the same way. He tells Fulgham that “things will be better the next time around.”
“The Election and America’s Future.” New York Review of Books, 4 November, 6-17. Mailer is one of 14 individuals, including Russell Baker, Anthony Lewis, Thomas Powers, and Garry Wills, who contributed to this symposium. His 1200-word contribution, pp. 13-14, is divided into two parts. The first deals with the spiritual condition of the U.S., a “guilty nation,” and why 9/11 “was the jackpot” for Pres. Bush and Karl Rove, concluding with advice for John Kerry in the presidential debates. The second part, written after the debates, is more optimistic, but ends with the lines: “Perhaps it is no longer Jesus or Allah who oversees our fate but the turn of the Greek gods to take another run around the track. When it comes to destiny, they were the first, after all, to conceive of the ironies.” Rpt: 13.1.
“Norman Mailer: On Pot.” An Interview by Richard Stratton. High Times, November-December, 42-44, 88-89. Important interview with an old, close friend who served a prison term for marijuana smuggling, and was at the time of the interview the editor-in-chief of this magazine. It is Mailer’s most extensive interview on his ideas about and experience with marijuana.
“Norman Mailer: Poetic Lion in Winter.” Article by Gary Shapiro. New York Sun, 23 September. An account of Mailer’s reading of his poems, followed by a conversation with J. Michael Lennon, at the 92nd Street Y in mid-September. Mailer said, “When it comes to poetry, I felt like a high school athlete. I wrote my poems and there was no coach out there with a gleam in his eye.” He added that a poem he submitted to Poetry had been rejected, but the rejection letter was “nicely written.”
“Hemingway Challenge: 25 of Today’s Most Influential Writers Offer Original Fiction in 6 Words, No More, No Less.” Black Book, fall, 132-33. Mailer’s story: “Satan—Jehovah, fifteen rounds. A Draw.” The challenge is based on a 6-word piece by Hemingway: “For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Used.”
“Mailer Takes Goodman to Task Over Election Issues.” Article by Ann Wood. Provincetown Banner, 29 July 2004, 3. Mailer interrupted a long-winded speaker To urge everyone to support John Kerry’s presidential bid. “The Republicans are hoping that we’ll make assholes of ourselves. They’re counting on it,” referring to his fear that someone would burn an American flag. “Our immediate need is to beat Bush.”