Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Mailer Remembered

Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Mailer Remembered

Article excerpt

I HAD BEEN NORMAN'S EDITOR for only two weeks when he called me up one day in February 2003 and said he wanted to write a book explaining why the U.S. was going to invade Iraq.

I said that made a lot of sense but by the time we published the book we would be well past the invasion. That's when he stopped me. "David, I don't think you understand. I want to write a book about why we're going to war before we go to war."

Suddenly I realized I had not asked a critical question. "Norman, have you written this book?"

"I tell you what," he said, "Give me one week."

As it turned out, Norman would end up delivering the manuscript of his thirty-third book, Why Are We at War?, a day early.

This encounter would be my first personal experience with Norman's almost supernatural energy and courage. Shortly after, I visited Norman and Norris in Provincetown. Norman and I were beginning to edit what would be his final novel, The Castle in the Forest--a complex reimagining of the childhood of Adolf Hitler. As we were sitting down to the dining-room table to start working, something behind Norman drew my eye. On the buffet were a dozen or more antique dolls dressed in satin, taffeta, and ribbons. Norman caught me staring at them and laughed. "I imagine this is not what you expected," he said. "Tough-guy Norman Mailer working on his book about Hitler in a room full of fucking dolls. But what can I say: I love my wife."

As we edited, Norman let me in on a secret: he was writing a trilogy about Hitler's entire life. The Castle in the Forest would be the first volume in the saga. …

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