Saturday, August 21, 2010

Notes on Norman

Michael Lennon, Mailer biographer and close Provincetown friend, dropped by the workshop and gave an informal talk while leading us through the house. Following are some of the anecdotes and snippets of personal history he told.

Michael Lennon (r) and Peter Alson
Norman bought the house, one of the very few brick houses in Provincetown, in the early 80s. Lennon suggested that 3/4s of Mailer's books were written here.

Norman hated plastic and refused to drink wine from plastic cups.

Norman often ate dinner at Michael Shay's Rib and Seafood restaurant. He enjoyed oysters on the half shell and would generally order a dozen. The odd thing was that he saw the faces of ancient Greek warriors in the oyster shells. He would take the shells home with him. He gave serious consideration to making a book of the shells, perhaps a coffee table book.

He sometimes drank merlot and orange juice.

Front Door, 627 Commercial St.
He enjoyed pot in the 50s and 60s but gradually stopped using it.

He watched TV as a means of staying in touch with contemporary culture - but he hated commercials and always muted them. He liked to watch sports.

He habitually read an enormous amount of magazines and newspapers, all kinds, left & right.

The day for him generally started around 9:00 when he would come down to breakfast and read the New York Times and Boston Globe, work the crosswords, then play a few rounds of an invented solitaire game before heading up to the third floor writing studio. He generally worked in shifts, two shifts a day: 10:30 or so until lunch around 2:00; then again from 3:00 or 4:00 until 8:00, sometimes 8:30.

In his early writing years, he worked Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday but in the latter years he worked six and sometimes seven days a week.

He wrote longhand.

He was impetuous. According to Lennon, he believed in "spontaneity in all things."

The dinner parties, of which there were many, were not infrequently contentious affairs. Mailer liked to instigate, provoke, argue. It was often loud. Food or wine was occasionally thrown.

Mailer the Drinker was an early career incarnation. He drank less as he grew older. Lennon dismissed the idea of Mailer as an alcoholic. There were periods of his life when he drank heavily but on the whole he was a social drinker. At one point he had a serious passion for single malt scotch and, as with any subject that interested him enough, he researched the hell out of the topic. Which, in the case of single malt, meant having on hand a huge variety and learning the nuances of each.

He was relentless, he "tried to dominate Reality with his mind."

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