Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Remembering Barry Leeds

Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Remembering Barry Leeds

Article excerpt

A panel at the 2015 international meeting of The Norman Mailer Conference in Provincetown was devoted to remembering Professor Barry Leeds, who passed away in 2015. Prof. Leeds was a prestigious Mailer scholar, devoted member of the Mailer Society, and beloved friend to so many individuals in numerous walks of life. Tributes submitted from other friends of Barry Leeds follow the comments from the panel. 

Marc Triplett (moderator): First of all, I want to introduce to you the ladies that are at the table with me. To my immediate left is Ashley Leeds, Barry's daughter. And sitting next to her is Linda Field, Barry's sister. We are pleased to have them with us. In a few moments, they'll be talking to us as well. Linda will make some comments after I finish some introductory remarks, then I'm going to ask those of you who will offer your thoughts and memories regarding Barry to come to the microphone that is up front there. We're having this session taped, and I think that's very appropriate and an important thing for us to do. Then after we've done that, I'm going to reserve ten minutes or so toward the end, because I know that Ashley will want to make some comments as well. We look forward to that.

I'm going to start out and offer a few thoughts of my own, just because they are my experience of Barry. I think some of them are yours, some of them are like yours, and some are uniquely mine. All of them kind of relate importantly to this organization and Barry's importance to it.

This is an enduring organization. We're now more than a decade old, and I guess it's to be expected that over time we'll experience some unhappy times and some losses. We lost Robert Lucid and Deborah Martinson, and now Barry. It's good that we gather here. Barry was important to the organization in a structural way, of course. He was our vice-president. He always chaired the Lucid Award Committee. He made the nominations for the board each year. He made many presentations of his own, and he was a major contributor to The Mailer Review.

My experience with Barry I want to relate because it's important to my being here. Before there was the Norman Mailer Society, or at least before I knew about it, I was a Mailer fan, so to speak. I came to Mailer because of politics. From the late 1960s forward in my life, when he first influenced me with The Armies of the Night and Miami and The Siege of Chicago, he became an important political commentator whose views I always sought out. They weren't hard to find through the media through the years, as time went on. Then I found this book called The Structured Vision of Norman Mailer that Barry had written before I knew who Barry was. I read that book, and I realized there's a whole different world about Norman Mailer than the one with which I was acquainted. That particular book was interesting to me, but a lot of it was beyond my grasp in the new concepts about Mailer's view as expressed through his work. Then the next thing that happened was that I learned that the Normal Mailer Society exists. I didn't make the first session. My first one was in 2004, which is the next thing I want to talk about.

On the way here to Provincetown in 2004, I reread Tough Guys Don't Dance. Then the first thing that was to happen here when we gathered on the night before the conference began was a showing of Tough Guys Don't Dance in this room. The former significant other of mine, who attended the conference with me, and I came into this room, and we didn't know anyone here. Up to the microphone to introduce Tough Guys Don't Dance came Barry Leeds. I recognized him immediately. I remarked to Justin Bozung this morning that Barry's comments included his view that the novel was of a certain quality, but the film, in his view (this is my memory of it), was even better than the book. He had a very strongly positive reaction to the film, but to me it was just like, "Here it is. This is where I belong because I already feel as though I know this guy. …

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