LIT: Whatever Happened To Norman Mailer?

COMMENTARY: By this point, Mailer had jettisoned his first wife, college sweetheart Beatrice Silverman, and clearly traded up in the sexual-allure department by marrying the painter Adele Morales in 1954. With Adele’s all-too-willing complicity, he cultivated the ugliest part of his nature and called it high moral adventure. Threesomes, foursomes, and moresomes became a regular feature of their sex life. Mailer especially got off watching his wife with other women; when he could provoke her to duke it out with her lesbian partner, his night was made. The spectacle was even better than naked mud wrestling. Marijuana lubed the orgiastic imagination. As he wrote, “Mary-Jane, at least for me, in that first life of smoking it, was the door back to sex, which had become again all I had and all I wanted.” He took to smoking the stuff nightly and popping Seconal to come down. Mailer supposed himself a prodigious seer on marijuana: he “could discover new experience in the lines of [his] text like a hermit savoring the revelation of Scripture.” Mailer felt obliged to make literature, or better yet a demonic theoretical broadside, out of his hump-piles and pungent smoke. His notorious essay “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster” (1957) celebrates the men and women who, in the teeth of death as it awaits them in the 20th century, by thermonuclear blast, extermination camp, or cancer, “set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self,” “encourage the psychopath in [themselves]?.?.?.?[and] explore that domain of experience where security is boredom and therefore -sickness.” MORE

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