“Culture Is Worth A Little Risk”

Norman “The Macho Prince” Mailer exited the squared circle for the last time this weekend. Hanging up his figurative spandex and leaving longtime manager Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart in the lurch. I know whenever these kinds of things inevitably happen that we’re supposed to look back, tilt our heads, and wipe that little tear out of the corner of our eye but this is a major qualm I have with hagiography:

Mailer was just 25 years old when he burst on the literary scene with his first novel, The Naked And The Dead. . .it is all the more remarkable because Mailer wrote realistically of combat without ever actually having taken part in battle.

Many critics saw flashes of Ernest Hemingway in the young Mailer’s novel.

recognized as one of the best war novels to emerge from that conflict.

Fake, but accurate you see? And we’ve been dealing with his literary petri dish babies ever since.

Arguably, ‘The Executioner’s Song’ is what thrust Mailer deep into the anus of America’s contemporary literature and culture. An amorally neutral narrative whereby Mailer took letters and interviews from acquaintances of convicted murderer Gary Gilmore and parlayed it into a fake and inaccurate novel.

Enamored of Mailer’s treatment of Gilmore, another convict named Jack Henry Abbott wrote to Mailer to gain his confidences.

Break it down like a clown, Charlie Brown:

When one of Gilmore’s prison mates, a man named Jack Henry Abbott, heard of Mailer’s new book, he wrote to the author immediately. This was the opening round of a bizarre story concerning a world-famous author who championed a convicted-killer-turned-writer behind bars. Encouraged by Mailer, a New York City publishing house became interested in Abbott’s letters as a book project. Mailer even lobbied for his new friend’s parole and convinced others to do the same. Of course, no one could say for sure what would happen when a man like Abbott was released back into society. But Mailer was emphatic. Abbott’s talents were of such importance, he assured, that it would be a crime to ignore it. “Culture is worth a little risk,” Mailer later told reporters.Who could have known that the risk would soon turn into cold-blooded murder?

Prison psychiatrists for one. They knew Abbott to be psychotic and said so. But The Macho Prince would not have his svengali silenced behind walls of concrete. Abbott was an America-hating psychopath who liked quoting Marx so the effete liberal set naturally coalesced in Big Dog/Little Dog psychology with a career criminal who knows how to Stick It To The Man ™.

After much discussion and several meetings by the board, they (the parole board) reached a decision in April 1981. Abbott would be released on a conditional parole in the employ of Norman Mailer. Abbott arrived in New York City in June that same year and was welcomed at Kennedy airport by Mailer himself….”We discussed his moving to a writer’s colony in Maine after parole.”

Mind you, we have no need of the finale of this story. Norman Mailer has passed peacefully into The Great Nothingness. Insulated by his money and narrow-minded New York publishing house apparatchiks. Worst of all, insulated from the consequences of his actions. I’ll keep it Wikipedia style short because no one else is going to apparently mention this ugly episode of Mailer’s illustrious career:

On the morning of July 18, just six weeks after getting out of prison, Jack Abbott went to a small cafe called the Binibon in Manhattan. He clashed with 22-year-old Richard Adan, son-in-law of the restaurant’s owner, after Adan told him that the restroom was for staff only. The short-tempered Abbott stabbed Adan in the chest, killing him. The very next day, unaware of Abbott’s crime, the New York Times ran a positive review of In the Belly of the Beast.

After some time on the run, Abbott was arrested in Morgan City, Louisiana, while he was working in an oilfield. He was charged with the murder of Richard Adan. At his trial in January 1982, he gained the support of such celebrities as Susan Sarandon, whose son Jack Henry Robbins is named after Abbott, and Jerzy Kosinski. Abbot was convicted of manslaughter and given fifteen years to life.

Apart from the advance fee of $12,500, Abbott did not receive any profits from In the Belly of the Beast, as Richard Adan’s widow successfully sued him for $7.5 million in damages, which meant she received all the money from the book’s sales.

There was a tragic irony to the murder, which was not lost on the community of aspiring writers and actors in New York: while Abbott was an accomplished writer, Adan was both an actor and a playwright, whose talent was just beginning to be recognized; shortly before his murder his first play had been accepted for production by the La Mama theatre company.

Norman Mailer was criticized for his role in getting Jack Abbott released and was accused of being so blinded by Abbott’s evident writing talent that he did not take into account Abbott’s propensity for violence. In a 1992 interview in The Buffalo News, Mailer said that his involvement with Abbott was “another episode in my life in which I can find nothing to cheer about or nothing to take pride in.”

Mailer, Susan Sarandon, and The New York Times??? That Sarandon named her son after a career-criminal and murderer is news to me but unsurprising. It’s like there’s some Vast Left Wing Conspiracy that’s been around for decades trying to subvert America.

Fake and inaccurate in life and now fake and inaccurate in death. If there is one thing I cannot fault Mailer with it is surely his consistency. The whitewashing media that sustained him in life doing so in death I cannot abide.

For all of his faults, Abbott had the decency to hang himself in jail five years ago. In a similar way, The Macho Prince tweetered like a bird in a cage of his own design. Safely tucked away in his ivory tower until the end.

100% of My Recommended Daily Allowance of Protein Update: Thanks, Dan.

Cruising With the Douche Tonight Update: Roger Kimball assailed by Leftists deriding him for not letting them have their moment to mourn their celebrated douchetool icon.

Why, oh why, couldn’t you have “the courage to stab a dead novelist in the chest”?

No sense of irony in that query but I’m sure I can field it.Mmmm….because we thought he was dead already?

8 comments

  1. I remember when this all happened. Mailer and Saranden marching with other “creative” folk to get this guy out of prison. I knew she named her kid after this guy, but I have never understood it. The creative side is just one facet of a person, I do not understand why that far outweighs the person otherwise being a complete jackass. After the murder, reporters asked Mailer if he felt responsible, his response was something like, I’m willing to take that risk for culture. Of course, HE wasnt risking anything. But he was willing to sacrifice a waiter for it. It wasnt until way later that he decided there was nothing to be proud of.

  2. Did you ever see the 60 Minutes episode, after the murder, when Mailer is barking at reporters? He said something like,

    “”The United States, in order to save its honor and pride, holds the world hostage to nuclear destruction! Correct? Correct? Then how can I not, at some risk to certain parts of society, save a doomed man’s talent, when the United States, for its power and pride, holds this world, this universe, this earth, over the brink of total annihilation!”

    That’s a paraphrase, so what he said verbatim might be even dopier.

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