The Ascension of Norman Mailer

By Grenier, Richard | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

The Ascension of Norman Mailer


Grenier, Richard, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


And they brought unto me a character named Norman Mailer. But I could not heal him, and cast him forth, saying unto him, "The best thing for you, Buster, is to put your ravings into a nice little book, `The Gospel According to Saint Norman,' kind of a mixture of the sacred and the profane. And Random House is in a state of such confusion they will surely publish it. And you shall be judged."

Now I implore the reader not to think I've been possessed by a sudden madness and mistake myself for our Lord and Savior. It's Mr. Mailer who mistakes himself for our Lord and Savior, following the principles of "Method" theology, according to which you kind of become whatever it is you're writing about - in this case the Messiah. Playing along like a good sport, you see, I'm only pretending to be Norman Mailer. He's the one who thinks he's the Messiah.

This is the way it works. When Norm wakes up in the morning he's a Jew. Not your everyday kind of Jew, I grant you, but by rabbinical law still a Jew. Then when he sits down to do a day's writing, at least when writing "The Gospel According to the Son," he becomes a Christian, he says, and perhaps the Savior himself. Then for the evening Norm puts aside his divine mantle and becomes an equal-opportunity sycophant, sucking up to celebrities. I don't know into what theological category suck-ups fall, but it's the only persona in which I've personally witnessed Norm, and repeatedly. In the presence of a celebrity, including men of great wealth, Norm becomes lit up as if by holy fire.

Now I wouldn't want you to think Mr. Mailer attained this divine quality from a standing start. He explained in an interview, in fact, that he has much in common with Jesus. Mr. Mailer wasn't crucified, of course. But what he has in common with Jesus is fame. He grants us there's an appreciable distance between a novelist and the Son of God. But at the age of 25 Mr. Mailer published "The Naked and the Dead," becoming an instant celebrity and thereby, as he puts it, "half a man and half something else, something larger." So he is half man and half something larger, just as Jesus was half man and half something larger. They both had to deal with the problems attached to being famous, Mr. Mailer explains. Fame is something you've got to learn how to handle, which brought Mr. Mailer close to Jesus.

Now surprising as this may seem to some, Mr. …

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