Norman Mailer's Wife: Mailer "Loved Women"

The New York Post has an exclusive interview with Norman Mailer's widow, sixth wife Norris Church Mailer, in which she says Mailer "...was a man who loved women, and respected them... He had five daughters, three daughters-in-law and six granddaughters who all adored him." This statement reeks of the "but some of my best friends are women!" defense, and what's worse, Norris goes on to say, "Most people who said he was a male chauvinist didn't know him and didn't read his work." Well Norris, we have read his work, and we still think he's a misogynist. In fact, we have his novel, An American Dream, in our little paws right now, and we're pretty sure his portrayal of women is entirely full of bile.

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Dream tells the story of former Congressman Stephen Rojack, who, within the first three chapters, murders his wealthy wife, fucks his dead wife's maid, and entertains a "blonde devil" of a night club singer named Cherry.

Not convinced yet that Mailer was no fan of women? Here's an excerpt from the novel that might prove otherwise. It's a description of Rojack's wife, Deborah. Rojack admits that he married Deborah in part because of her wealth and elevated social standing, though he did deeply love her in his messed up way.

She was a great bitch, Deborah, a lioness of the species: unconditional surrender was her only raw meat. A Great Bitch has losses to calculate after all if the gent gets away. For ideally a Great Bitch delivers extermination to any bucko brake enough to take carnal knowledge of her. She somehow fails in her role (as psychoanalysts, those frustrated stage directors, might say) if the lover escapes without being maimed to the nines or nailed to the mast. And Deborah had gotten her hooks into me, eight years ago she had clinched the hooks and they had given birth to other hooks. Living with her I was murderous; attempting to separate, suicide came into me.

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To recap, any "lioness of the species," (read: strong woman) will destroy any man fool enough to get involved with her and the "hooks" she has begotten. Still not convinced? Well how about this description of Ruta, Deborah's maid, as Rojack is having sex with her after he's murdered Deborah. Ruta has a "monomaniacal determination to get along in the world...that was replaced by something tender as the flesh but not at all clean, something sneaky, full of fear, but young, a child in soiled pants." Then he calls her a Nazi.

The only woman who escapes Mailer's acid pen is Deborah's daughter, Deirdre, who is too young and innocent to be evil. "A delicate haunted girl with eyes which contained a promise she would learn everything about you if she looked too long, and so chose not to look."

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Hmmm, so Mailer's surrogate, Rojack, hates all women except for his children. And Mailer, the man, had five daughters and six granddaughters "who adored him"? Perhaps Norman thought of his progeny as separate from the vast, unwashed womanhood out there. Certainly his second wife, Adele, whom Mailer stabbed with a penknife, supports the view of Norman as someone who was not so kind to women. In an interview with Adele, who is living in near-poverty despite the wealth of the Mailer estate, she said of the stabbing, "In one minute he destroyed my life, and it took me years to make it back."

We never met Norman Mailer and have no idea as to how he treated the women in his personal life besides Adele, but we think we can say without a doubt that the way he treated his literary women was pretty fucking shabby.

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Widow Defends Mailer, Says He 'Loved Women' [New York Post]
The Woman in the Shadow [New York Times]

Earlier: The He-Man Woman-Haters Writing Club

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