Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Norris Mailer

Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Norris Mailer

Article excerpt

I CALLED HER MY SOUTHERN GIRL ... since we both were, more or less. Arkansas-born. Norris was landed gentry. I, spawn of a rebellious Alabama Mama who ran off with a brilliant, exciting Yankee--right up Norris's alley--a Dixie half-breed. Subsequently, our friendship was grounded in our south-of-the Mason-Dixon-Line humor ... a shared maverick philosophy where adventure trumped security ... heart ... logic ... passion ... common sense. We loved transcendent writing, complicated men, great books, good food, glamorous anything ... jewelry, clothes, furniture, trips. "Ordinary" we agreed, "is our enemy."

But then Norris Mailer was never, ever ... ordinary. Informing that ridiculously gorgeous, movie star persona was a fierce, if soft spoken, intelligence, titanium will, the most tender of hearts, the kind of brutal, unembarrassed candor that rendered her literary piece de resistance, A Ticket to the Circus, the gold standard for any aspiring memoirist.

Running into each other over the years, Norris and I would, invariably, repair to a corner, engrossed in conversation as the party swirled around us. "You're the best friend I never see" she said. I couldn't have agreed more. That changed during the last couple years of her life when our closeness made up for lost time--alas, not on our side. Wary of making people uncomfortable, Norris resisted talking about her illness, exactly what I, handson veteran of my own mother's pancreatic cancer, wanted to do, providing, I hoped, a discreet, understanding outlet for any unexpressed feelings--or pain--she wished to spare others. Eventually, Norris took me up on it. And though the topic was sometimes hard, it could also become, in our hands, ironically hilarious. …

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