Out of the office yesterday, observing (as suggested by the schedule of my younger son’s daycare) Veteran’s Day. So much to catch up on. For instance, Norman Mailer’s passing. The Mediabistro Morning Newsfeed did a great job of rounding up the most noteworthy of the many obituaries and tributes, but I’ll link to only one, Jay Parini’s respectful but clear-eyed assessment in the Guardian books blog (“Mailer’s talent was never as big as his ego“):
The odd thing about Mailer was that he was never at heart a novelist but a remarkably gifted journalist. As a young man, I read The Naked and the Dead (1948) with deep admiration for its epic sweep, the passion and occasionally brilliance of the writing. Barbary Shore (1951) and The Deer Park (1955) left me cold, as they did most reviewers. I tried, without success, to push through Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967). I did so because I liked the image of Mailer: the literary hipster with a good deal of bravado, the outsider, the man who dared to tell society what its faults were. I admired the vast ambition. But it seemed to me he was not much of a novelist.