Remembering Norman Mailer

Article excerpt

GOOD AFTERNOON.

On behalf of Random House and the Mailer family, I welcome you to "The Time of His Time: A Celebration of the Life of Norman Mailer." I am Gina Centrello, President and Publisher of Random House. Random House was Norman's publisher for twenty-four years, and I was privileged to be his publisher for the last five.

What began as a somewhat surreal experience--Did I really have the author of The Naked and the Dead sitting in my office?--developed into a relationship of fun, challenge, and friendship. Norman was a consummate professional, simultaneously inspiring us with his passion and ideas and charming us with his wit and warmth.

I will never forget my thrill when he called me shortly after The Castle in the Forest, his last novel, hit the best-seller list, to thank Random House for helping to make it his best-selling fiction in years. He was as excited as if it were his first best seller.

I had been told that Norman's legendary temper had mellowed years ago. But I did get glimpses of his mischievousness. He delivered The Castle in the Forest to us, a fictional account based on the life of young Adolf Hitler, on a Thursday and left word that he would appear in my office Tuesday to discuss publication plans.

Like all writers, Norman wanted immediate feedback, in this case immediate feedback on his Boo+ page manuscript.

Of course, David Ebershoff, Norman's editor, and I read the manuscript over the weekend.

Of course, it was brilliant.

And, of course, we had some editorial suggestions.

Those of you who have read The Castle in the Forest will remember that there is a long section in the middle where our narrator digresses, and tells of another evil, Nicholas II. …