yesterday - Mailer day

LI has an enormous headache – one of those headaches with its own address, utilities and telephone number – so my post today, which was going to be all about how I got to see Norman Mailer speak, yesterday (hooray!) and how I finished my damning review of Pynchon’s new novel (sob) is going to have to be truncated. Suffice it to say that, about the latter, I finished that review with the feeling of the crippled lawyer in Lady From Shanghai, who tracks down his wife, Rita Hayworth, in the Mirror Fun House and calls out to her hundred fold reflected image – Lovah, are you aiming that gun at me? Cause I’m sure aiming this gun at you. Of course, to kill you is to kill myself – but I’m getting tired of the both of us. - My codex to the Planet Mars, Gravity’s Rainbow, that great black magic book about white magic, i.e. the Good War, is still high up there as one of the novel’s I most admire. Alas, Against the Day is the dissolution, a barbaric yawp turned into a barbaric yawn. Lovah, are you aiming that gun at me…?

Well, the Mailer symposium at the HRC this week brought together all the once young dudes, who dutifully roll the sixties up the hill until it rolls down again like academic Sisyphi – such as Morris Dickstein – and then for the piece de resistance, the man himself, with – on his left side – his go to guy, Larry Schiller (who is still the guy who sold the pics of Marilyn Monroe dead – he still visibly carries the air of a man who would sell his grandma if it would get him into the news, especially if his grandma had just committed a hatchet murder) and the elegantly suited and perpetually confused Gay Talese on his right. Mailer was totally cool – his belly gone, the arms thin, the eyebrows needing plucking, but still having the devil’s grin in him enough to read an elaborate passage about Hitler’s parents 69ing to the assembled Austin gentry. Speaking of which, the woman in front of me, mistaking me for someone more important (hey, this Joan of Arc haircut is really working out for LI!) told me a story about how she had, indeed, made the mistake of having a fundraiser for Kinky Friedman back in March, but never would have thought he’d become such a jackass, and had sent out a mailing just last week calling on her friends to vote for Bell – but that K.F.’s campaign manager, sitting right before her, had just told her, as though it were the best news, that Governor Perry (the dropped on his head Republican who announced, halfway through his campaign, that non-Christians would go to hell – but graciously declined to make them pay higher taxes if they behaved themselves in his state) had apparently invited K.F. to work with him – on what, God only knows.

Mailer quoted the Trotsky epigram about how to use the press: you can know the truth by comparing the lies, talked about his own way of ‘reporting’, and in general was cushioned by our universal affection. Sincere affection, too. I was happier to actually see Mailer in person than I would be to see… well, almost anyone else.


new york pervert said…
I've got an early hold on the Pynchon, and I'm going to be interested in reading it because I haven't read any of the Pynchon classics. Will look forward to discussing in a few weeks, as it's coming out for the rest of us in about a week. I do resent it for being so long, however, and have no intention of finishing it if all it is is prestigious.
Hi Roger,

Just read your review of Against the Day (and how "sad" you are). Well, good news/bad news ... no need to be sad, and your review is very puzzling. You refer to yourself as a "Pynchonian" but, as a Pynchonian, how can you zip through an 1085-page Pynchon novel and declare, on one read-through, that it's not up to snuff? I maintain, and, and I am about 3/4 of the way through the book, having received galleys around 10/7 or so. I too am a Pynchonian, and I'm simply amazed that a "fellow Pynchonian" would make such declarations about a new Pynchon novel, having (I assume) read it just once, and probably *very* quickly at that! All I'm prepared to say at this point, having read at a snail's pace and taking notes for the wiki to boot, that Against the Day is, indeed, *potentially* right up there with Gravity's Rainbow. I only say "potentially" because the really amazing aspects of GR didn't really get through to me until I re-read the novel. But in Against the Day, I see those same familiar glimmers of a deeper structure to be gradually revealed through further readings of the novel.

I really can't imagine anyone who actually declares himself a PYNCHONIAN, being so certain upon first speedread, that a Pynchon novel is *anything* ... I think eventually you may be relieved to find that your initial impressions are premature and half-baked, and that greater pleasures lie ahead.

As I said, at the 75% point, I think it's pretty amazing, and I too am a Pynchonian.