books, quotes, style

Mailer? I Hardly Even…

It’s been a Maileresque couple of days. I bought the PARIS REVIEW with Andrew O’Hagan’s interview of him in it. I was so happy that there was a discussion of style in it:

One of my basic notions for a long, long time is that there is this mysterious mountain out there called reality. We novelists are always trying to climb it. We are mountaineers, and the question is, Which face do you attack? Different faces call for different approaches, and some demand a knotty and convoluted interior style. Others demand great simplicity. The point is that style is an attack on the nature of reality. [my italics]

That’s a great summation of my theory about styles of directing, too. We are mountaineers. Which face do you attack? All styles are legitimate – the only danger is to eschew or denounce style, or to fail to understand that style is a choice with value, or to only be capable of writing (performing, directing) in one style…
I guess that’s a lot of dangers.
Style is a minefield full of cherry trees.

Mailer wasn’t always so aesthetic in the interview – he managed to get in some weird race references and bash Vaclav Havel, not to mention refer to his wives as cities he had gotten tired of living in (femininity as geography, anyone?) but I liked so much of his notions about writing, and I liked his bluntness.

The interview also had my favorite interviewer line in it ever:

That won’t do, Norman. No way.

I was having breakfast with Kate McConnell at Brother’s the next morning, and as we left our table, a family playing the Trivial Pursuit cards which are on all the tables read this question aloud:

Dad: Which Pulitzer-Prize-winning author’s first novel was THE NAKED AND THE DEAD?

A silence followed it, but I gasped, “Norman Mailer!” and went straight to Bloomsbury to order a copy of that novel.

(The Paris Review archives all their extensive interviews here, by the way.

Here’s another great quote:

Our understanding of good and evil begins with our parents. Down the road one is altered by one’s relationships with one’s children.

If one is so minded – or so inclined – is it a good idea for a novelist to have children?

I don’t prescribe for novelists. I mean, if Henry James followed my prescription, where would he have been?