Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Reflections

Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Reflections

Article excerpt

THIS ISSUE OF THE MAILER REVIEW IS DEDICATED TO NORRIS CHURCH MAILER. We do so with a heavy heart and much sadness, reminded daily of how much we miss her. The passing of Norris has taken a heavy toll on those of us who were privileged to know her. I do not believe that I ever met anyone who knew her who did not cherish her, whether the relationship was a casual, recent one or an intense friendship of long duration. The memorial tributes in these pages give testimony to Norris's ability to touch the hearts and minds of so many individuals. Many contributors recall her ability to transform them by her words and actions. When I think of Norris's wonderfully engaging spirit, deep generosity, and intensely compassionate spirit, the term "inspirational" is what comes to mind as the best way to describe her. Our tribute edition to Norris is, therefore, an affirmative celebration of all that she was, and is, to us.

I first met Norris and Norman in 1990 when Norman and I participated in a Hemingway conference at Harvard and Norman was the keynote speaker. I was introduced to Norman and Norris at a reception in a large hall and we exchanged only a few perfunctory words, but I recall most vividly the presence of Norris and Norman as they walked through the hall. Norman was Norman, sailing through a sea of outstretched hands and friendly smiles, enjoying the warm confines of the Hemingway crowd, most of whom well appreciated the connections between these two great artists. Norman, too, was a kind of "Papa" and he seemed to savor the emotional fervor of the moment. Norris was beautiful, statuesque, and appeared totally at ease among the large crowd as they moved along, Norris towering above her legendary husband. She, too, held her own in the daunting Harvard air. Norris and Norman impressed me as a majestic match for one another.

As we were introduced, Norris struck me as one of the most distinctive, engaging women I had ever seen. She was stunningly glamorous, of course, as so many have commented, yet my reaction to her was something much more than an aesthetic appreciation of a very attractive woman. There was elegance in her demeanor, something that was clearly recognizable, at least to me, but it was a quality that resists simple definition or description. One might call it "presence," "chemistry," or "magnitude." Norris Mailer, I suspected, had mesmerized strangers her entire life, probably going back to her toddler days in Arkansas. …

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