(17 may 2007)
lee harvey oswald is of little concern to me beyond the fact that he became a political assassin at the age of twenty-four (a historical fact all too often obscured by a receding hairline). i believe oswald killed kennedy, that he did it alone and that the grassy knoll is a load of bunk. and i abhor oliver stone for ever convincing me otherwise.
so i’m not quite sure what compelled me to pick up oswald’s tale. because norman mailer and i don’t really get along. he’s played dirty with my girls and you can’t just forgive a guy that. but still… a girl does like to forgive.
i have this suspicion that good old norman mailer isn’t really a bastard. he’s just a guy who was unfortunately born after ernest hemingway and who has spent his entire career trying to strut a literary machismo of equivalent value. and that’s tough. as norman mailer has illustrated.
norman mailer so desperately wants to be a bastard. his neediness is discomfiting. you can see it right there on the page. in the way he swaggers about, cocksure in his dialectic derring-do. strutting his syntactical anarchy. it’s in the laziness of his transitions, the ballast of his phrasing, the sly jabs of his judgments.
he comes off as the kind of guy that slaps his women and keeps a rifle by the nightstand and boxing gloves on the bedpost. or at least he comes off as being the kind of guy who wants to come off as that kind of guy. norman mailer wants the world to believe he is a bastard. his every word is a naked testament to this need.
which is kind of sad. and which, once we got past the honeymoon period, has annoyed me on nearly every single page of oswald’s tale. i want to say, norman mailer, stop being a bastard.
because norman mailer is being a bastard. and honestly, i don’t know if norman mailer is telling the truth anymore. if he’s really being norman mailer and norman mailer really is a bastard or if he’s writing as he thinks Norman Mailer Writing As A Bastard & Great Masculine Writer of the 1950s would write. and that, in turn, makes me doubt whether norman mailer actually spoke to all the people he says he spoke to and whether he actually has any clue what happened with oswald in russia and, in the pits of untrusting despair, i can’t help but wonder whether this whole 719-page pulitzer prize winning masterwork is the figment of a deranged historical revisionist, which makes me want to throw down the mammoth thing and scream norman mailer, you bastard you.
because this bastard can write. it’s just that his writing is wrapped up in brawn and testosterone and spit. it’s a splashy cocktail of aggression that leaves me longing to put on a diaphanous gown and marabou shoes and drink daquaris in feminine rebellion. because really, deep down, i think it’s all a pose.
i think secretly norman mailer rises early in the morning to make pancake breakfasts for his unfortunately named wife norris. that he has a persian cat named fifi whom he worships and who stars in the occasional short story he pens for his grandchildren who call him “paw-paw.” that he secretly gets a kick out of wearing pink argyle socks. that he licks the lids of his jell-o swirl pudding snacks and separates the chocolate 2/3s from the vanilla. that he’s fearfully afraid of needles and slugs and that they make him squeal like a little girl and that he’s fearfully afraid people will find that out.
i don’t think norman mailer is a bastard. because i don’t think men who dedicate books to their wives can be bastards. at least not real ones. no, i think he’s lying to us all. norman mailer, you bastard you.