This collection of letters written by Norman Mailer over the course of the last 60 years is a revealing portrait of the author and an interesting look at the history of the last half of the 20th century.
I'm rather depressed these days. It's been years since anything I've done has turned out successfully -- with a few rare exceptions -- and I'm falling into the thing which afflicted you a couple of years ago -- a failure of the will, shall we say. My ambitions seem far beyond my talents, and light-years beyond the vicissitudes of my character, and I think of this enormous novel I'm now starting, which could well take ten years, and if done properly, it must be unpublishable except in green-backed French "dirty" editions, and I'll be middle-aged when it's done, and somehow I just don't believe in myself the way I used to, and indeed, worst of all, it doesn't even seem terribly important. I'm beginning to have the tolerance of the defeated -- people I would have despised a few years ago now seem bearable -- after all, I say to myself, I haven't done very well with all the luck I had, and perhaps I do wrong to judge them.
I particularly like the letters written to William F. Buckley, Jr., a man whom Mailer called a friend but with whom he disagreed vehemently on political issues. Don't see much of that today, publicly at least.
Michael Frumin's grandfather passed along to him a campaign poster from when Norman Mailer ran for mayor of NYC in 1969. The scans of the poster are wonderful.
I'm about as far from a knowledgeable design critic as you can get, but this thing is an undeniable work of art, especially in the eye of any native New Yorker.
Does anyone know who designed the poster for Mailer?
A few months ago, Parade Magazine ran an article by Norman Mailer in which he answered the question: if you could do one thing to change America for the better, what would it be? His answer: ban television commericials because the constant interruptions by TV ads were interfereing with our children's ability to concentrate and thus to read and succeed in school and in the world.
I'm not sure Mailer chose the best problem to focus on here (if the "constant interruption" thing is even an issue...look at how long kids stay glued to the television), but I believe he's on the right track in focusing on education. In choosing an answer to this question that would make the most impact, it seems prudent to focus on answers that satisfy two requirements:
1. Get 'em early. Kids are the most malleable members of a society and much significant change starts with the younger generations. Anything that impacts education will likely have a large eventual effect.
2. Choose a course of action with significant emergent behavior and a positive feedback cycle...basically a cascade effect. Find the best place to punch a tiny hole in the dam so the whole thing eventually bursts.
Nothing I have come up with so far satisfies those criteria and you're collectively supposed to be much smarter than I am, so I'm asking you: if you could do one thing to change America for the better, what would it be (and why)?