Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Norris Church Mailer: An Appreciation

Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Norris Church Mailer: An Appreciation

Article excerpt

HER HALLMARKS WERE COURAGE AND COMPASSION.

The sad news of Norris Church Mailer's passing spread quickly on Sunday, just a few hours after her death, via the Norman Mailer Society. When I first read the e-mail, it was shocking--not so much that she was gone, but because of how hard she had fought her cancer. As with most people I see battle beyond their means, I never imagined Norris would succumb. It seemed like such an insult to life. And then I thought of her courage and dignity throughout the difficult course of a ravaging illness that lasted nearly a decade. When our friends die, inevitably we say, "She was a remarkable person," or heap on similar praise. In Norris's case, it's truly an understatement.

I met her the day I met Norman--now some 30 years ago. I went to the Mailer house with a mutual friend for an afternoon cocktail party on their deck overlooking Provincetown Harbor. I arrived uninvited and unannounced, but just walking in with our mutual friend, the late writer Eddie Bonetti, I seemed to pass Norman's litmus test. At the time, I followed boxing pretty closely and Norman had a lot of knowledge and opinions on the subject. But Norman always had an opinion, which I came to love about him. Finally he said to me, "You haven't met my wife yet, have you? Hey Red!" She had been walking on the beach with their two-year-old son, John Buffalo, and now joined us on the deck. Norris was stunning and statuesque in the early afternoon sun, especially the way it played with her long red hair. Hey Red, indeed.

Knowing that she had probably met more famous dignitaries than the Pope, I was unprepared for how genuinely welcome she made me feel. It wasn't just the usual, "Hey how are you? Nice to meet you" kind of thing. She pulled up a chair next to me and while Eddie and Norman were off to the side of the deck, engaged in a friendly bout of open-handed boxing, we went on yakking like long-lost friends. It was as though I had known her most of my life instead of the last five minutes. And that was how it always was with Norris, whether I was at her home to interview Norman, or there for dinner, or even there to interview her on each of her books. …

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