Sunday, November 11, 2007

In God-Haunted Utah

I read a good portion of Executioner's Song while waiting in an aiport terminal for my then-beloved to return from a job interview. These were the days you could wait at the gate, and I plopped myself down in the very wrong terminal and waited and waited, getting lost in the world of Gary Gilmore brought into being by Norman Mailer. While I always enjoyed Mailer's persona, his anger, his crazy-ass antics (stabbing his second wife at a party ranks right up there with William Burroughs infamous William Tell moment with his wife), I read his books because I felt that I needed to, not with the rabid pleasure I had with many novels. But Executioner's Song was different. Weighing in at over a thousand pages, I felt mesmerized by murder, Mormons, death-haunted families, and the Bonnie and Clyde elements of the story. I finally figured out I was at the wrong place and had to stop reading and get my bearings.

I often get lost, so much so that I build in time for it in my schedule, sometimes arriving way too early. And I get antsy while I wait for anyone and carry around books as a protection against that quiet time when you have nothing to do but think. I don't want to think! No way! I don't know what inspired Mailer to write Executioner's Song; in some ways, it's his least characteristic book. But for a long time, I was in God-haunted Utah at every stop I made, making my life so much better for a few minutes. Mailer talked a lot of shit, stirred the pot, made many appearances. But for my money, he did what every writer wants to do in that week of Executioner's Song -- he wrote something that made me trade my own despair for someone else's.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Every moment of one's existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit." Norman Mailer

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Year of the Dog

Benedictions and Maledictions
Rest in peace, Norman Mailer! Happy Sunday to all! Still working on catching up on e-mail.


Michiko Kakutani said...

In his best work Mr. Mailer made America his subject, and in tackling everything from politics to boxing to Hollywood, from astronauts to actresses to art, he depicted--or tried to depict--the country's contradictions:its moralistic prudery and grasping fascination with celebrity and sex and power; the outsize, outlaw past of its frontier; and its current descent into "corporation land," filled with cheap, consumer blandishments and the siren call of fame.

Herman Nortrop Frye said...

RIP, Norm. Your essay, "The White Negro," really got me thinking about things.

Oscar Winner said...

Excellent reaction to Mailer's death, Michelle, and I highly recommend the movie version of "Execution's Song," with Tommy Lee Jones portraying Gary Gilmore. I don't think he got the Oscar that year, but he was a contender.

Wikipedia said...

Tommy Lee Jones won the Emmy for "The Executioner's Song."

Among the Dangs said...

Weighing in at over a thousand pages.... I --I love the way you dangle, Michelle.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've never read enough Norman Mailer. A shame that I've waited until after his death. I think at one time I was a bit put off by his antics. These days I'm not sure why anymore

the walking man said...

Theere is another of the "Beat Generation" gone I guess when Ferlinghetti goes that will be the end of that generation and then we will be known as the "Politically Correct Generation" of writers. See you later Norman, last of the wild men who didn't care just lived the way you thought you should. RIP.



As a side note I got my dang Drivers License back. despite the best efforts of Roseville PD to fuck me out of it. : P ha ha ha

Cheri said...

I don't think that I've ever read Mailer... I'll check him out after the hype dies down so I don't seem like one of those people who gets caught up in a fad.

Pythia3 said...

RIP Norman.
Thanks for this piece, Michelle.
Trying to catch up on reading my favorite blogs since I have temporarily tapped into a wireless network. Being in transition doesn't warrant the installation of any more wires or cables to hold me down.

Pythia3 said...

PS. If (or in my case, when???) stranded on a deserted island, I hope I can tap into a wireless network and read your archived posts!

eric1313 said...

"Every moment of one's existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit."

That's about it, too.