Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer

The explosion of the first atom bomb had an immensely greater effect upon human identity, worldwide human identity, than 9/11; yes, an order of magnitude more. We've never recovered from the knowledge that our earthly universe is chained to a bomb larger than human measure. So many of the roots of human history were pulled out by that bomb, and we have been paying the price ever since.

That's from Norman Mailer's Why Are We At War? I was driving C.I., Ava and Jess to the airport this morning and Jess was going station to station trying to find some good music or news worth listening to when it was announced that Norman Mailer had died. We were all kind of shocked. And depressed.

Ava fished around her purse for a CD, popped in Tori Amos' American Doll Posse and the first track is "Yo George" aimed at guess who. It really seemed to fit the mood. For me anyhow because the first thing I ever read by Mailer was Why Are We At War? which calls out the nonsense of the Bully Boy administration. Here's "Yo George" by Tori:

I salute to you commander and I sneeze
‘Cos I have now an allergy to your policies it seems
Where have we gone wrong America?
Mister Lincoln we can’t seem to find you anywhere
Out of the millions from the deserts to the mountains
Over prairies to the shores
Is this just the madness of King George?
Yo, George
Is this just the madness of King George?
Yo, George
Well you have the whole nation on all fours

This is from the paper in my area -- or the one we read -- and it's online and probably in tomorrow's paper. Mark Feeney "Literary giant Norman Mailer dies at 84:"

Norman Mailer, the self-proclaimed heavyweight champion of postwar American letters, whose six decades in the public eye helped make him one of America's most acclaimed, and controversial authors, died this morning of acute renal failure at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He was 84.Mr. Mailer was 25 when he published his first book, "The Naked and the Dead" (1948). Based on his experiences as a combat infantryman in the Philippines, the novel was a great literary and commercial success.Mr. Mailer went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes: for "The Armies of the Night" (1968), a nonfiction account of a 1967 anti-war march on the Pentagon, and "The Executioner’s Song" (1979), which Mr. Mailer described as a “real life novel,” about executed murderer Gary Gilmore.
The key book among the dozens Mr. Mailer published -- the one that did the most to create his outsized persona -- was "Advertisements for Myself" (1959). An audacious gathering of fiction, journalism, essays, and interviews, it served as Mr. Mailer's announcement that he was king of the literary hill.

So another voice against the illegal war is gone. I read The Excutioner's Song and the book on Marilyn Monroe after I read Why We Are At War? and The Naked and the Dead was actually assigned for one of my classes. That's really all of his work I knew. I saw him and his son on Democracy Now! and I'm not finding that but this is from "Norman Mailer: Why I Am Protesting the Presidency:"

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the role of protest? I mean, you have extensively written about it. You won the Pulitzer Prize for your book --
NORMAN MAILER: I'm all for protest -- I'm all for protest when an election is not coming up, because protest can have a huge effect slowly, steadily. Not immediately. Almost immediately, the media particularly in America does its best, generally speaking, to put protest down. But over a long haul, the march on the Pentagon ended up being a success. I have said this many times, but what Lyndon Johnson saw was that 50,000 middle class people, middle aged and young and a few old, came to Washington, paid their way to get to Washington with the prospect of being hit over the head with a club. Lyndon Johnson was a very canny man. He knew that there's one thing about middle class people: they didn't like getting hit over the head with a club. And it paid. It paid. They are going to spend their money to come to Washington to protest. He was sick. Because he knew if he paid the way of all of the people who would come to support his war in Vietnam, he would be lucky to get 5,000 people. So 50,000 had come this way, in all fear and all determination. Then there probably were somewhere between 5 million and 50 million behind them. He didn't want to find out. It took something away from them. He brought in Clark Clifford at one point to ask him for an honest appraisal of the war in Vietnam. Clifford said, it's a loser. Clifford was respected by Johnson because he was objective. He said, you're not going to win this war, you can't. I think that led to -- well, now we get into all of the complications of history. It's never clean. So, Johnson stepped down, Nixon came in. Nixon knew his advantage was to keep the war going for four years to get re-elected, et cetera, et cetera. Here we get into all of the tangles. I'm saying that we have to enter the land of the tangles.

So this morning I did the airport drop off and they go, "Don't wait. You're tired." I was tired and depressed. I told C.I. I was going to go home and crawl back into bed so the entries at The Common Ills might go up late. C.I. did those before we ran this morning (and, FYI, C.I. hadn't been to sleep, there was a roundtable last night that I'll link to in my next post that went on forever and after that was typed and posted, C.I. did the morning entries -- there are two -- and then I was waking up and we went for a run before it was time to get ready for the airport). C.I. said not to sweat it and that they could get posted whenever I woke up, no rush. But I was driving back home and thinking of all the voices against the illegal war and how so many of them seem to be leaving before the illegal war ends. Like Molly Ivins. And then the next thought it who will be next? A lot of our strongest voices, like Howard Zinn and Gore Vidal, aren't 'youngsters.'

And I thought about how so many of the ones that are considered 'voices against the war' are Party Hacks who only use the war as a topic to push elections and then drop the topic (like they did after the 2004 elections and like they did after the 2006 elections -- and after the 2006 elections no one proved that point more than idiot Katrina vanden Heuvel with her 'it was about economics' b.s. post -- it was about the illegal war, stupid!). Norman Mailer was a great writer, no question, but it was calling out the illegal war with no ifs, ands or buts that really spoke to me. He was courageous when most people were meek. And a lot still are.

So those are my Norman Mailer thoughts. The quote is "probably" on page 31. On the car ride to the airport I said I loaned out the book and wish I hadn't because I wanted to quote something from it. C.I. grabbed a piece of paper and wrote that down for me. C.I. say it is "probably" page 31 because C.I. was writing down the quote from memory.

I'll do a second entry but I'm going to go for a walk (a) to wake all the way up and (b) to try to get out of my funk. I posted C.I.'s first entry and I'll post the second one when I get back from the walk and before I do my second post.