Norman Mailer (1923 – 2007) would have been 97 on January 31. To celebrate, we’re republishing this interview from September, 1979, conducted by Legs McNeil.
At the age of 56, Norman Mailer has the right to call himself America’s Greatest Living Writer—even if he’s not. For one thing, maybe he is. He is a great writer. Definitely America’s Greatest Macho-Hetero Writer Over Military Age. But even if Mailer’s literary genius has dimmed somewhat over the 30 years of his certified greatness, he still would maintain his position on assertion alone.
Norman Mailer has been running for Greatest Writer in America for 40 years, ever since he was a 16-year-old punk freshman at Harvard, running for the Literary Presidency as if it actually existed somewhere in the shadow of the Great American Novel. Mailer has been the champ since Hemingway blew his brains out.
He was famous at 21 with his bestselling war novel, The Naked and the Dead, and continued to ride the crest of literary celebrity, turning even disasters into triumphs with alchemic gall.
He has married more women than most men have fucked. He stabbed one of his wives several times with a penknife. He has owned prizefighters. Starred in his own movies. He pays more alimony than some corporation presidents make in a year.
He has been the theoretician for hipsters everywhere, whether they wanted him or not. He drank a lot of booze, took Seconal and bennies, and smoked a lot of grass. He turned into “General Marijuana” and cofounded the Village Voice, hipster newspaper, in 1956, and there wrote some historically outrageous columns, and quit in a huff.
Mailer was never afraid to air an idea, no matter how unpopular it might be, and continuously renewed his notoriety with such works as “The Homosexual Villain,” written for an early gay …
Author: High Times / High Times