Brawling, boozing, bragging and child-begetting author Norman Mailer died on Saturday at the age of 84. Strangely, on Friday I’d been musing about the time my now-husband won dinner with Mailer at a charity auction. Mailer was already having health problems then; as I recall, he was using two canes. He looked cute and harmless but I was wary of his reputation for sexism. As a precaution, I told him that if he gave me any trouble, I’d spank him. After that, we spent a pleasant evening discussing our mutual love of pugs.
Mailer’s wife, Norris, was charming. She shared some amusing stories about the many times people asked her if her husband had stabbed her. He didn’t stab her! He stabbed an earlier wife. Get your wives straight, people. My condolences to Norris.
I did take a break from the pug topic to ask Mailer about my favorite work of his, The Executioner’s Song, which is about real-life murderer Gary Gilmore. I asked him if he’d read a book called Shot in the Heart by Gilmore’s much younger brother (he hadn’t). I highly recommend both books. Shot in the Heart does make me smirk a little, though not because of the writing. You see, Gilmore’s brother changed the spelling of his name. Makes sense, right? One might not want to be associated with one’s murdering, executed brother. Except he changed his FIRST name, not his last. His name is Mikal Gilmore, formerly Michael Gilmore. I think this is hilarious.
Now that I’ve mentioned the Gilmores, I will also say that one of my all-time favorite songs is Gary Gilmore’s Eyes by British punk band The Adverts. One of the things that made The Adverts awesome was that they had a woman on bass: the punkishly stylish Gaye Advert.
Photo from Detour Records
A while ago, I was considering doing a big Music Hum post on The Adverts. I abandoned the idea because, as far as I can tell from my Googling efforts, Gaye completely dropped out of the music business and spends her time supporting partner (and former Adverts vocalist) TV Smith’s career and being a passionate vegetarian. Now, I firmly believe that (1) people should do whatever the fuck they want with their lives and (2) it’s better to be a has-been than a never-was. Despite those two beliefs, something about Gaye’s story depresses me. Hopefully it doesn’t depress her! As long as she’s happy, it’s all good. But she still doesn’t get the big post, just a tip of my beret.
Another woman I’ve been meaning to mention is 88-years-young author Doris Lessing, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature last month.
She is the eleventh woman to win the literature prize since 1901. According to nobelprize.org, only 34 women have won a Nobel Prize in any category. The other 743 winners were men. So it’s especially fabulous that Lessing won, since she has been a feminist icon since the publication of her 1962 novel, The Golden Notebook. As the New York Times reported, “In its citation, the Swedish Academy said: ‘The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work, and it belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th-century view of the male-female relationship.'” I will still give Lessing her feminist props even though a few years ago, she complained that women are now pushing men around too much. Frankly, on my planet, that isn’t true and the fact that she said this kind of makes me want to cut her. To calm myself, I will take a moment to caress my copies of Backlash and Sisterhood Is Powerful. Be right back.
Okay, I’m back. Just as a reminder, feminism is defined in the dictionary as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” It says nothing about biological equality, which we all know is impossible because men are cursed with an organ that makes them act like idiots. There are no rules against wearing lipstick and a bra, getting married or having children, though I firmly believe that people should be forced to earn some kind of license before they’re allowed to have kids because I have encountered too many screaming brats, usually in the row behind me on JetBlue. As I said above, a feminist like me says, “Do whatever the fuck you want with your life,” unless you are Gaye Advert, in which case I will find your choices inexplicably depressing. I guess I just feel leather pants, heavy eyeliner and guitars are worthy of a lifelong commitment. Let us all take a moment to admire committed rocker badass Joan Jett.
Still kicking ass and taking names.
Anyway, The Golden Notebook was never my favorite Lessing work. I prefer her first novel, The Grass Is Singing. All you sex-ay bitches need to read it! Or I’ll give Joan Jett your names! I bet Joan puts my ass-beatings to shame, so I’m going to outsource some of them to her.
Fascinating, radically feminist, and possibly inactive blog of the day: I Blame the Patriarchy. This blog will cut you if you mess with it.
He was such a great writer! I am very sad about it. Today at the Uni one teacher remind us how great he was, and I felt even worse about his death.
Were Norman Mailer and that pug separated at birth?
@Angela, They do look like they’re from the same litter, don’t they? @Atelier, at least he lived a long life to the fullest!
The Clothes Horse says
Young ladies today are too afraid of feminist connotations/reputation to claim the name for themselves. I had a friend who once even went as far as to say, “I think you’re right about this whole feminist thing, I mean women are supposed to be equal, but I just don’t think I’m a feminist.” I verbally assaulted her for that statement.
Oh, Clothes Horse…you didn’t beat the bitch’s ass? Should such a horrible statement ever be made in your presence again, please let me know and I will deploy Joan Jett immediately. If necessary, she will bring the Blackhearts for backup. I think a lot of women are scared to call themselves feminists because they worry about what MEN will think of it. Ha! That’s why I think we womyns (especially we fashion-loving womyns) who have the nerve to identify ourselves as feminists should do it boldly…to encourage others.
In Yr Fshn says
What a whirlwind post! You are the only person I know who can start at Mailer and end at Jett. Also, I agree with everybody about the feminist thing. It really pisses me off when ladies won’t commit to the word.
stef m says
I am going to get the Lessing book you recommend (after a long period of being too busy to read a book from cover to cover — I know, that sounds ridiculous and my mind is all cowbebby from it — I am back on books!)
LOL @ Jenn re “whirlwind.” My husband had the same reaction. I’m not sure it’s good that I’m writing posts with internal logic that makes sense only to me. I am hoping to be more organized for the rest of this week, but I make no promises.
Miss Woo says
Personally I feel as a woman, if you wanna vote and get paid the same as men, you are a feminist. Too many woman have feminism denial.
On a completely unrelated note, I think you should bring back the leopard print trousers;) Those Gaye Adverts trousers also looks suspiciously shiny, shes rocking the PVC!
November 12, 2007 1:54 PM
Miss Janey says
Having to be licensed to reproduced may not be a feminist ideal, but Miss Janey would get behind it in a minute.
It was sad news about Mailer. Your story of meeting him was lovely though!
I’ve always been a fan of Doris Lessing. And MY GOD, Joan Jett looks fantastic. Ugh.
Joan Jett was on The Henry Rollins show back in May on IFC. She is awesome. Two things I never understood… why are some females afraid of the feminist label… and why many men troubled of feminists. One of countless words I can think of for men… insecure!
Cris Lazoru says
Oh great post, truly unique
Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog! I enjoyed reading yours.
As a graduate of a women’s college, I have no problem owning up to being a feminist. I agree with the clothes horse, it’s a shame that young women today shy away from that word.
Wonderful post. Glad to hear you put Mailer in his place when you met him, that’s a great story.
Well I read your’ blog regularly ; enjoy your’ many points of view and enjoy your’ many readers points of view but am saddened to be referred to as “an idiot” because I’m a man. That behavior seems far far beneath you and your’ usually brilliant wit and warmth which I find very attractive. The rest of the post and the many reader’s comments are typically superb. And you may be pleased to know that I admire the idea of feminism and find chauvinism detestful. Please please stick to your’ usual stellar form and I’d actually welcome more posts about feminism , I appreciate the education.
But Mothra, I thought you were a lady insect! You laid an egg and heroically protected it! Besides, I don’t believe men ARE idiots, just that when they are on the prowl, they can ACT like idiots. Entirely different than, say, Carlos II, who was an actual idiot. Anyway, I hope you know that whether you’re male, female, or gender neutral, you are my #1 favorite monster.
Agreed, men on the prowl are ginormous idiots and actually intimidating to me as well. You will be pleased to know that in the painting class I teach we discuss sexism in the arts and I’ve been priviliged to learn a great deal from the women in my class. Sadly, I know an excellent woman painter who uses her first initials instead of her actual name when promoting her work because she feels that it will sell better that way. What a shame! On the flip side of that; there is the magnificent young British artist Jenny Saville who paints gorgeously huge canvases dealing with body image, reconstructive surgery, violence, and sexuality. I find that terribly inspiring. Thanks for your’ kind response to my message, I admire you greatly. P.S. I will read Doris Lessing!
Thank you for commenting my barren rookie blog, haha. It’s good to know there is someone out there in blogger land who’s actually seen it!
This is one charmingly witty blog you got here. I’d like to hear more, so I think I’ll subscribe/ link you in mine if you don’t mind.
P.S. I just had a discussion earlier in the week with an acquaintance about how skirts are no longer a sign of female oppression but a manifestation of women’s liberation. I believe that within the last 40 years, they have ironically become a positive tool for female identity. As a feminist (or at least that’s the impression I’ve gathered from this post) and a modern fashionista, what’s your opinion? Who wears the pants when it comes this issue?
Kira Fashion says
i wanna that dog!
i am so in love for dogs, lately…
@msciorti, I think women should wear whatever the hell they want. Well, people should still consider context and avoid wearing clown suits at funerals or going topless at their law firm. You can be your own person without offending the bereaved or ruining your career. But if you’re just going out for a couple of beers and feel like wearing a dog collar, that’s fine with me. I’m against any kind of social construct that mandates what women should wear at all hours of the day, 365 day a year.
I heart pugs too and I have my own pug at home, Noodles. He makes me laugh everyday! As for Norman Mailer he wrote a really good book about Marilyn Monroe.
Norman Mailer= second wave class bully
Ah yes, Lessing and Mailer, 2 authors I have yet to have time to fully explore…
oh and: “I’m against any kind of social construct that mandates what women should wear at all hours of the day, 365 day a year.”
I <3 you!