Mailer’s Death: We Called It
The passing of Norman Mailer has elicited tributes, memories, and even a video of Rip Torn trying to hit Mailer in the head with a hammer (in Spanish!), but here at Boston magazine we have something else: his self-written obituary.
In the September, 1979 issue of Boston, Mailer composed his own obit, as did Tip O’Neill (self-deprecating fat jokes), and a few others whose deaths, real or imagined, elicit nary a reaction.
Mailer’s eulogy is, as you would expect, hilarious and contentious, and he manages to get back at his enemies even in the pretend afterlife. The full text is after the jump.
Reprinted from the September, 1979 issue of Boston magazine:
By Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer passed away yesterday after celebrating his fifteenth divorce and sixteenth wedding. “I just don’t feel the old vim,” complained the writer recently. He was renowned in publishing circles for his blend of fictional journalism and factual fiction, termed by literary critic William Buckley: Contemporaneous Ratiocinative Aesthetical Prolegomena. Buckley was consequentially sued by Mailer for malicious construction of invidious acronyms. “Norman does take himself seriously,” was Mr. Buckley’s reply. “Of course he is the last of those who do.”
At the author’s bedside were eleven of his fifteen ex-wives, twenty-two of his twenty-four children, and five of his seven grandchildren, of whom four are older than six of their uncles and aunts.
At present, interest revolves around the estate. Executors have warned that Mailer, although earning an average income of one and a half million dollars a year, has had to meet an annual overhead of two million, three hundred thousand, of which two million, two hundred and fifty thousand went in child support, alimony, and back IRS payments. It is estimated that his liabilities outweigh his assets by eight million, six hundred thousand.
When asked, on occasion why he married so often, the former Pulitzer Prize winner replied, “To get divorced. You don’t know anything about a woman until you meet her in court.”
At the memorial service, passages from his favorite literary works, all penned by himself, were read, as well as passages from prominent Americans.
His old friend, Truman Capote, said, “He was always so butch. I thought he’d outlive us all.”
Gore Vidal, his famous TV and cocktail-party adversary, complained sadly, “Norman did lack the wit that copes. I would add that he had the taste of Snopes, but why advertise William Faulkner, who’s responsible for everything godawful in American penmanship—one can’t call it letters.”
Andy Warhol said, “I always thought Norman kept a low profile. That’s what I liked about him so much.”
Gloria Steinem stated: “A pity. He was getting ready to see the light.”
Jimmy Carter, serving his fifth consecutive term as president, replied in answer to a question at his press conference this morning, “It is my wife’s and I regret that we never did get to invite Norman Miller [sic] to the White House, but we will mourn his passing. He did his best to improve the state of American book-writing and reading, which we all need and applaud.”