Difference between revisions of "December 4, 2019"

From Gerald R. Lucas
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Revision as of 20:25, 4 December 2019

In Another Place: A Mini Review


Today I finished Susan Mailer’s recently published memoir In Another Place: With and Without My Father Norman Mailer.[1] The title refers to the distance between the two throughout Susan’s life, both figurative and literal, and journey that she made to reconcile these distances with Norman. She does so by the end of the latter’s life through her own journey to feel comfortable with who she is and not who her father would have her be. As first born, Susan has a unique perspective on the famous author’s life. She was both lucky and unlucky to have a front-row seat to Mailer’s life, soon after he won international fame with the success of his first novel The Naked and the Dead. She was born a year after its publication (about 20 years before me) while Mailer was trying a career — ultimately unsuccessful — as a Hollywood screenwriter. Life with Norman — at least what she spent of it — was often difficult for Susan, but pretty much what I would expect, based on what I know about Mailer. Still, the insights into Norman are plentiful and perspicacious — especially in how the public events that we know affected his life in a personal way.

While the book does focus quite a bit on Norman (as one would expect), it is as much about Susan and her life’s journey. Mailer’s narrative style often seems to background her voice, though it’s the one telling the story. She seems to place more emphasis on the external world, especially the life that orbits her father. Her voice and presence in the memoir get stronger as she gets older, but Norman remains a dominant influence. In fact, the personal vignettes are the most memorable, like the experience of the bullfights, her growing up in Mexico, her return to Mexico, and her relationship with the large Mailer clan.

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