I was online all morning yesterday and didn’t get to open the paper version of the New York Times till early afternoon. I was flipping past the obituary pages because I’d already seen the story about the death of Playboy-Bunny-turned-cop-turned-murderer-turned-fugitive Laurie “Bambi” Bembenek all over the web, but then I glimpsed another story made me say, “OH NO!” out loud. Author Norman Mailer’s sixth and last wife, Norris Church Mailer, had died at 61 from the gastrointestinal cancer that she’d suffered from for 11 years.
Norris was a model and painter who eventually became an author herself. Her memoir about life with Norman, A Ticket to the Circus, was published this year.
I only met Norris once, in the late ’90s, when MrB and I won dinner with Norman in a charity auction benefiting the American Italian Cancer Foundation. I previously blogged about the dinner, during which we discussed pugs and wife-stabbing, after Norman Mailer’s death in 2007. Norman wasn’t scary that evening, despite his reputation as a tough, brawling, sexist wife stabber. (Norris, in a television interview, once said of him, “…”one day Norman is a lion, the next day he’s a monkey. Occasionally he’s a lamb, and a large part of the time he’s a jackass.” But any jackassery was under control that night.)
The sad news about Norris inspired me to re-read the short 1998 New York Times story about that Mailer dinner. I forgot that it described me as MrB’s “friend.” We’d only been seeing each other for nine months at that point. Here’s the story in its entirety:
A ‘Bargain’ Meal With Mailer
Pricelessness now has a value: $2,800.
That was how much PAUL STEIGER, the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, bid for a dinner with NORMAN MAILER at an auction benefiting the American-Italian Cancer Foundation on Monday night.
The dinner, whose ”donor value” had been listed in the foundation’s glossy auction catalogue as ”priceless,” is for six at the Four Seasons restaurant. The date has yet to be set — the catalogue said that it had to take place between Dec. 5 and 20, but not on the 15th. The only other guest so far is Mr. Steiger’s friend WENDY BRANDES, who runs the markets desk at CNN.
”I thought this was a bargain,” said Mr. Steiger, noting that he himself had been a prize at charity auctions in the past — for almost as much as he is paying for the priceless Mailer meal. ”Once people paid $2,500 to have sandwiches in my office,” he said.
I deeply regret that I have no photos of that dinner. I didn’t get my first digital camera until 2001 and didn’t get a camera phone for years after that. I suspect that not only did I not want to drag around a “film” camera that night, but that I also thought it would be rude or undignified to ask for a picture. I have much less shame about such things now. If MrB was paying for a dinner like that today, I wouldn’t hesitate to request a photo for my blog as part of the deal. But I’m still too shy to pounce on random Law & Order stars with whom I’m not dining.
The way I found out about Norris’s death reminded me that I’ve been meaning to discuss how beneficial it is to read newspapers on actual newsprint. I enthusiastically use teh Interwebs to stay informed, but I’m highly aware of how easy it is to select only what you want to read. That’s why I read on paper too. The mere act of turning the pages means I come across articles that I wouldn’t necessarily hunt down or might plain miss online. That’s exactly what happened today. Other days, I find myself reading the occasional intriguing sports story. I would never read any of those articles online, because I never choose to click on “Sports.” It reminds me of my bookstore experiences. While I do most of my book-shopping online, whenever I walk into a store, I think, “I MUST do this more often.” There are always so many great books that I either haven’t heard of or might not have been inspired to buy online.
Self-selecting your news can have more serious repercussions than missing out on an interesting story about bad-ass female athletes. One thing I can’t stand is people doing illogical things out of good intentions, so I was distressed last January by hordes of well-meaning folks collecting canned food and clothing to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti at a time when planes attempting to fly in with aid were being turned away because the Port-au-Prince airport was too damaged to accommodate landings. They would have known about that if they’d flipped through a newspaper instead of focusing on Twitter and Facebook clothing-drive pleas. The New York Times also ran a very informative story quoting experienced aid workers who advised giving money rather than, say, sending TV dinners that require a microwave oven to places where there aren’t any microwaves or even electricity. Meanwhile, online, a blog called Good Intentions Are Not Enough offered excellent advice on how to help Haiti most effectively … but I only discovered the blog through the New York Times. I particularly recommend these posts from Good Intentions Are Not Enough:
- A musing on donated machinery;
- The worst in-kind donations;
- and my favorite, The DOs and DON’Ts of Disaster Donations.
In case you’re still not persuaded to read non-virtual news, I’m going to start doing videos so I share with you whatever grabs my attention in the papers. Stay tuned.
I’m pretty sure staring at a computer screen all day has ruined my grammar, spelling, & ability to actually complete a project. It’s a relief to get home and read a book for too few precious minutes. Looking forward to the videos.
This also applies to physical mediums of music (CDs, vinyl, cassettes et al). ITunes and their ilk have made music more accessible, but at the expense of missing out on some great songs that, for one reason or another, weren’t brought into the forefront. And not just music, for that matter, but liner notes, artwork, photos… sometimes it’s just not enough to have audio data and a JPEG file unless the music itself was made solely to be consumed in the same manner as a stick of chewing gum.
In fact, this is why I don’t review albums too often; I want to have that new or old album in my hands. Of course, it’s also more expensive and/or difficult to have a physical copy, so sometimes it is off to the AmazonMP3 store I go, or even to the torrents if I can’t find what I want through “legal” means for whatever reason.
Anyway, if this says anything, I don’t read my local newspaper online very much, but I do read the physical copy when I happen upon it. It just seems better that way, I think.
fashion herald says
Not to mention the quality of the recording! Call me old fashioned, but I love the rich sound of a record album.
Ahhh… me, too. Alas, I don’t own a turntable or a proper stereo system, so I make do my upgrading my earbuds when I can afford to do so; if I were to ever own an iPod, the first thing to go would be the stock earbuds, as they are crap, period.
I read “A Ticket to the Circus” last month while simultaneously reading “The Executioner’s Song.” Both gorgeous, gorgeous works. What a treat to have met them both.
Ok you have inspired me to pick up a print copy of the NYT. I read it daily in college bc it was a requirement but now I get all my news online. Thank you, tomorrow I will read the print version : )
I totally agree with you on all accounts. I read the papers daily too when im in singapore, but not when im in indonesia. I don’t know i just find the indonesian papers are so lack lustre and the stories (except obituaries) are quite old and not up to date. To me, the net is still my main source of finding news, but you are right, it is different from actual papers, I might miss a story or two because I mostly just skim the stories if i read from the net.
Excellent advice as always dear
Much appreciated 🙂
Mr. Steiger’s “friend?” Didn’t they know they were referring to the future Mrs.??
That’s a very good point about the TV dinners! Duh!
sharon rose says
Hi my dear-a great tribute post to the late Mrs Mailer and loved to hear how you all had dinner together. Yes, I do normally read online papers, but have started to buy newspapers at the weekends, to read the parts I don’t generally click to as well.
belle de ville says
I with you on reading print. I don’t have time during the week, but I save up all my journals and read them on the weekends.
Nickie Frye says
I never buy newspapers. They just end up spread all around the house & the last thing I need is more clutter. I get all my news from twitter. HA! Kidding. 😉
La Belette Rouge says
You make a brilliant point( as is your way) the trouble with self-selected interwebs news is that we miss the stumble across factor. I have Norris’ memoir. I think it was you who got me interested in reading it. And thanks to you I am going to resubscribe to an old-timey newspaper….just the Sunday edition.
Vint Junky says
Excellent point. Most of my news is articles i’ve chosen to read on the web, and lately i’ve noticed i seem to have missed some important news and events. I’m trying to scale back my interweb addiction and get back into some print.
I love this post. How awesome that you have that short to reflect on. That’s priceless!
Even visits to news sites online are getting more seldom and are being replaced by lifestyle blogs and the occasional episode of The Daily Show. Looking forward to seeing the vids.
That's Not My Age says
Oh I’m totally old-fashioned – always read a newspaper.
Another one who reads actual newspapers like me!
I read them for the same reason you do, the running across stories I would not find if just looking up info online. I tend to stay within my interests when reading online and this limits my scope of what I come across. Why I enjoy browsing through actual, printed newspapers….to find out about stories I would have missed if online were my only source of news. I read the newspaper everyday and if I miss a day due to travel it feels odd.
I am also a book reader…as in paper books. I dislike staring at screens all the time and enjoy the feeling of turning real pages in a book, marking my place when I need to set it aside to do other things, and coming back to it at a later time when I have some free moments to read. Plus nothing beats “new book” smell! I cannot imagine myself ever using an ereader…it just doesn’t appeal to me to spend all the time staring at a computer screen.
My apartment is so stuffed with books but I can’t part with any non-fiction…and with non-fiction I do like to turn down pages, underline things and write notes. So I buy “dead tree” books when I’m buying non-fiction and use the Kindle for fiction…just to save space!
Sold. I need to do more newspaper-reading. It’s so easy to get stuck in the online world, as you so deftly point out.