Wednesday, May 16, 2007

norman mailer is boring

blow up the balloons and load the confetti, champs: after six long weeks i finally finished The Executioner's Song, a "real life novel" about gary gilmore, executed by firing squad in 1977. why would someone commit to this 1000+ page tome of mediocre prose?

i submit these excuses:
-- you should probably read mailer before you die. this goes for stendahl, mann, proust and erica jong.
-- the Song is an example of how an author assembles a cohesive story from hundreds of hours of exhaustive interviews and background research
-- there's some sex, and some violence, for about 6 pages. not the best salacious ratio, but it's something.
-- ummmm, sometimes your library gets shut down for renovation so you feel obliged to address your overflowing “to read” shelves?

-- maybe you're an insomniac?

i know norman mailer can write: dude won a pulitzer prize, and his 3-page afterward to the The Executioner's Song is concise but deft – so why is the bulk of the Song written like this:

Gary was kind of quiet. There was one good reason they got along. Brenda was always gabbing and he was a good listener. They had a lot of fun. Even at that age he was real polite. If you got into trouble, he'd come back and help you out.

bleeeah. for a Song, nothing sings. and most of the book is short paragraphs like the one above, which makes it difficult to develop any complex thought. did mailer consciously choose to write what he heard in the interviews and not what he heard in his head? did he fear that transcribing the head voices would drop the telling of gary's love, murders and execution into melodrama?

whatever. i soldiered through to witness gary's execution and have now moved on to arlene hunt's False Intentions, where the writing is more fun & rewarding.

any mailer apologists out there? did i just pick a misrepresentative work?


addon said...

"norman mailer is boring" .... clearly.

finn said...

he's no nabokov, that's for sure.