Mailer’s Device

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Personal / Stories / pk by Age / Ack! Jobs /
@ K. 2000 09 27

What I would have liked to tell Norman Mailer upon meeting him was how his excellent Prisoner of Sex, having gotten the great Willie Morris and staff fired from the once good Harper’s Magazine, also got that staff’s acceptance of my short story The First Week reversed. His fame got punished; mine got stillborn. He got his big bucks; I didn’t even get my $25.

Not his fault: it was his virtue that did it. (See The Model. The story continues the start made in a note on how I’ve striven not only to write but to get my writing published.)

It takes a little talent to flatter the talented effectively. This story also ties to a point made in a sister folder on the virtues of being specific.

The time was 1974 or thereabouts. My FLEX volunteers had given up and drifted away. I was half insane, drinking more than usual, a habit begun at age fifteen. My wife had used the law and her mother to take my son away from me: and from Ivan Illich’s ideas. Her $5 an hour was no longer paying the rent. I went door to door for FLEX. Came home as empty as when I sent out my stories to Esquire and The New Yorker. Looked in the Times. Saw “art sales.” Got the job.

This multiple original graphics house had opened a white elephant of a gallery: almost a square city block! They might as well have filled it with junkies on the nod and broken glass for all the people that came in. No people, no sales. No sales, minimum wage and swift collapse. They promised it would be all right. They had a show coming up that would have people waiting on line. The show turned out to be ten little fiberglass sculptures by Frank Gallo, seven blow jobs, two sitting on the face, and one fuck: editions under ten or so. The day before the opening we had the things hidden under the counter. Knock at the door prior to opening time. The knocker didn’t respond to the guard telling him the opening time. I went over. The guard opened the door just enough for me to try to handle him. Guy sticks his face in far enough to say, “I’m Larry Schiller. Can’t get here during regular hours. Norm here, would like to see the Gallo pieces. If it could be arranged.” Norm-here was now visible behind Schiller. Gray to ashen medium sized middle age. Norman Mailer.

A show we’d soon have indirectly involved Schiller and Mailer: serigraphs of street graffiti. (This was a high class house. Why they even published Playboy celebrity Leroy Neiman.) I don’t know how, but I recognized Schiller’s connection with the company founder and president, Jack Solomon. I got the timid, boss-dominated manager to make an exception. Larry split, and I led Norm-here to where the sculptures were cached. “Paul,” my nameplate said.

Back at the door to let Mailer out, still before hours, I spoke to him for the first time other than to show him the sculptures. “I was so impressed by an unusual device of yours in The Prisoner of Sex.”

The ashen middle-aged sag evaporated. A vibrant, intelligent human being stood in its place. Magic. As I narrated its effect on me as I read, he beamed. He said, “Gee, really. I’ll have to reread it myself,” clearly understanding that he had met another writer with an actual mind. “Thank you, Paul,” he said, looking me directly in the eye.

Since I was in my employer’s establishment and the context was merely a courtesy asked and given, I refrained from telling him how that same book had been a big fireman’s bomb in snuffing my own writing career.

Norm: I hope you find this. And read my story. Know how long ago it was written.

A moment ago I used the word “magic.” Magic is a very important concept at this homepage. I’ll develop that aspect of the above story in True Magic.

2013 09 29 In the movie Argo the Iranians employ school children to sift through debris shredded by the US Embassy to try to recreate text, images. After a zillion hours of labor the host state gets a glimpse of who they’re looking for: the diplomats, escaped and hiding. One minute you’re got a shred of paper, another you’ve got a detail of a face. My modules at K. made sense when I wrote them, contexts were generally clear. But the fed destroyed my work as well as me, now I have to piece things together myself. Footnotes to footnotes to footnotes become new “posts.”
Somewhen this footnote linked to a footnote on how I knew as a college applicant I could out-compete guys from other schools’ honor societies by being specific in my answers.
The other guy is asked what he’s interested in: “Uh, duh … art,” he fumbles: trying not to lie but to be impressive.
I’m asked the same question, I say, “Rodin!”

So, trying to communicate with Mailer I chose a detail of his writing that only another first class writer — and critical mind — would be aware of. Result: Mailer noticed me! not just being polite.

Stories by Age by Theme by Others

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
This entry was posted in work and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s