Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Rise above It

Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Rise above It

Article excerpt

YOU'LL NEVER REGRET TAKING THE HIGH ROAD.

The first time I heard Norris say this we were in the living room in Brooklyn Heights a few months after Norman died. She was telling me her early ideas for a memoir. She had all these stories--the story about first meeting Norman in Arkansas, the story about going to a dinner party at Oscar de la Renta's in a nightgown, the story about dressing up as a stripper named Cinnamon Brown. Then she landed on a story about one of Norman's "old girlfriends," as she put it. One evening the woman insulted Norris at a party, looking for a catfight that would land her in the gossip pages. Norris didn't bite. That's when she said, "David, you'll never regret taking the high road."

If you're an editor assessing the potential of a memoir, what do you suppose you're looking for? Of course you want candor, depth, and self-awareness. But you also want a little juice. If a writer says You'll never regret taking the high road--what is your likely reaction? The high road might be nice for personal relations and family harmony, but will it lead to a fascinating book? Will the high road take a writer to the best stories, like hooking up with Bill Clinton and the painful truths of marital acrimony?

You might have this concern, but not if you're sitting on Norris Church Mailer's worn sofa and looking into her worn, wise eyes. …

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