Norman at the Table

Article excerpt

WE ARE IN CARNEGIE HALL and we are celebrating a great man. And in that context, would you please make sure your cell phones are off. Or we'll ask Norman to think of something to make you sorry. Let me start this evening, this afternoon, evening, early evening, with two words--Norris Church. She has seen the morning and the evening, the fear and the pride, and she has seen the applause and the attacks, and I know that she has felt it all. And I'll bet you this--she knew how much Norman loved her.

I'll never forget one night after Norman came to my table. We had finished the conversation and I said, "Where are you going?" Norman said, "To the hospital." He looked at me with soft fear in his eyes, and he said, "I don't know how Norris is doing, but I know she's a fighter."

In one of my "brilliant questions," I once said to Norman, "What about the novel?" He said, "It's the finest moral judgment that can be made, moral judgment not to be found in science, in psychoanalysis, in social work, or in the clergy." I said, "Or in journalism or whatever." I asked, "Why a novel? Take me back to the novel." Norman said, "It offers the highest challenge for moral inquiry. Writing a book is like being married to a woman you're not too happy with. You're worried about it all the time. …