Magazine article The American Conservative

Norman Mailer vs. the Liberals

Magazine article The American Conservative

Norman Mailer vs. the Liberals

Article excerpt

One of those self-important so-called pundits once asked Norman Mailer if fascism was coming to America. The pompous one had once worked for Time, so Norman answered him with a pun. "It's going to be a Luce sort of fascism." Mailer was always hard to pin down where ideology was concerned. I once introduced him to a beautiful Israeli woman who immediately asked him why he had never visited Israel. "Because they don't all look like you," said a smiling Norman. Although Jewish, Mailer was not a fan of right-wing Israel. He particularly disliked Israeli extremists and was poignant when discussing the plight of the Palestinians. He referred to his politics as being of the radical conservative persuasion but kept an open mind, something quite rare in the lofty intellectual circles in which he mixed.

He was a good friend of William Buckley and had all sorts of nicknames for Pat Buckley, whom he adored and teased mercilessly. He was close to Elia Kazan, whom he considered the top, and I once had dinner with Norman and the Greek-born director in the Mailer house and the only subject that came up was how yours truly could have his cake and eat it also where marriage and women are concerned. Both Kazan and Mailer were great womanizers, so for once I listened to every word they said.

Dinners at the Mailer house in Brooklyn were terrific affairs because of the mix. Sometimes it was just Norris and Norman, my wife and I, and Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show, and other memorable works of small town America. One time Abe Rosenthal, then-executive editor of the Times, complained to Norman that he couldn't sit at the same dinner table with me because of the rude things I had written about him. (I only said that if he made love as badly as he wrote, I felt awfully sorry for his wife.) Norman moved me from Abe's table and placed me next to him. If anything, it was a lesson in manners for Abie baby.

Mailer's feuds, of course, were Homeric in scope and intensity. He famously punched Gore Vidal in Kay Graham's house in Washington, and he had crazed feminists shouting their heads off during televised debates. I always thought he made fools out of female polemicists like Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan, but then I never followed the debates. …

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