Monday, January 31, 2011

The Novelist’s Song

Writer’s Almanac tells us that American icon Norman Mailer was born on this day in 1923. Mailer, who died in 2007, was born in New Jersey, though he grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He later attended Harvard and was drafted for military service during World War II. From Writer’s Almanac:
He served in the Philippines, and although he didn't participate in much fighting, he got enough material to go home and write a novel, The Naked and the Dead (1948), published when he was just 25 years old. It was a best-seller, it made him famous, and for the next 60 years he continued to publish books.
Though in some ways noted for personal excess, when it came to his writing, Mailer was very self-disciplined:
Mailer was incredibly productive, and stuck to a strict writing regimen. He said: 'Over the years, I've found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.'

He wrote every day from 9 to 5, up until his death at the age of 84. For the last 27 years of his life, he shared a studio with his sixth and last wife, Norris Church Mailer, an artist and writer. They each had their own space. Mailer sat on a wooden chair looking out at the Provincetown Bay -- he liked to be near water when he wrote -- but he closed the curtains when he really needed to concentrate. Mailer and his wife ate breakfast and lunch on their own schedule, but they would meet up at 6 p.m. to drink wine and eat dinner.
There’s much more on today’s Writer’s Almanac.



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