April 30, 2003

ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE have been weighing in on Norman Mailer’s latest remarks, but fellow novelist Roger Simon has it nailed:

Talk about white boys who still need to know they’re good at something–how about NM and political analysis? Mailer continues to see everything as sports–fills the article with stale athletic references–as if, unconsciously, he were still in competition with Hemingway. (I doubt Hemingway, wherever he is, thinks much about Mailer.) That is also probably part of the reason he personifies the war in Iraq as Bush’s affair. There always has to be some kind of human adversary for Norman. Issues are not the point because they are not, never have been, Mailer’s forté. He prefers the boxing match and the ready opponent on the other side. But this time it’s interesting, despite the fact he’s writing in the London Times, Mailer didn’t dare take on the real heavyweight in town — Tony Blair. I guess even Norman knows when he’s over his head.

It was another novelist, Pietro Di Donato, who once said that for all their tough talk, Mailer and Breslin couldn’t punch their way out of a paper bag. Nowadays, that’s true even with regard to their rhetorical skills.