Lipton’s Journal/January 31, 1955/390
Anyway, I think I’ll finish with an expository chore. Describe my weekend. It has importance for this journal as background for the notes.
The weekend was a bust until late Sunday night. Bought a tape recorder for myself and hi-fi for the folks on Saturday. Two symbolic acts. Had Lipton’s and made love Saturday night. But too much happened. For the first time I made love as if it were an analytic session and talked to Adele all through it, expounding her sexual character. She was a little repelled and frightened—so was I. I felt real potency deserting me for intellectual potency. But I was hot on the scent of what had long eluded me—why her past promiscuity always made me so hot, and I believe I found good reasons. For truly I recreate the past for her and make the past good. If her breasts were felt when she was fifteen and it was unsatisfactory thus driving her further on, I restore to her the fulfilled desire of how her breasts should really have been felt. And so on through all the parts of love. I love her sexual past because I can recreate it for her, make it better, and also feel identified with many men. So I was very excited intellectually while we made love, but I think she was repelled by what seemed unnatural to her—the Catholic is very deep and very basic in Adele—it’s why she despises herself so. She feels if she doesn’t despise herself, she’ll go straight to Hell.
Anyway, we were both left with great flatness which carried over to Sunday, and on Sunday morning I could remember nothing of the tremendous insights I felt I had on Saturday night. Again I felt depressed, and the Dissent meeting was hanging over me. That came on Sunday afternoon, and was deeply depressing. I felt I didn’t belong there. All these bitter rationalists, with their rationalist talents—they would turn on me if they knew what an anarchist I am. And indeed Lewis Coser spoke approvingly of how Clara Thompson and the Sullivanites were riding Reich out of business under the auspices of the Pure Food and Drug Act. (What a perfect title for a law for once.) The only time I felt understood was when Plastrik who is a vigorous meaty secretary (Radical parties may have the butcher boys for secretaries. Stalin, Molotov, etc.) said to me in passing, “Maybe you could do a piece on Serge Rubinstein.” The oddity was that I had just been thinking the same thing. When I mentioned telepathy, their faces all got flat.
Anyway, the meeting was unbearably dull. I kept despairing of socialism. These people are all well-meaning, they are even courageous, but they are pale, they are scholars, bitter scholars, they are deeply middle-class, they are the essence of social-democracy even when they are to the left of it. They are socialists because they are all—their socialism is not a desire for justice, a passion for equality, but merely—by now—the intellectual urge to order society. I kept feeling I should speak up, and kept deciding not to. It would have been disruptive, and I would have been defeated. After all, if I had won—which is inconceivable—I should have had to take over the magazine which I certainly don’t want to do, and so I felt merely a spoiler, a wrecker, a renegade. I knew that I could stay with them only by accommodating my personality, giving articles to Dissent which would be stimulating for them because I would only go a very small distance.
Yet with Howe and Coser I get the feeling that they are deeply dissatisfied, that they wish to move on, and I expect more tolerance from them (father images again) (Father—let me rant in your ear) than from the others. Anyway, before the meeting was over I left—my only suggestion which was more than a joke being that Dissent covers remain the orange-red of the last issue—which was carried. But all afternoon first in the delicatessen—what else would Jewish socialists do before a meeting?—then in the Plastrik’s home, I felt a stranger and alien. I fled with Mike Harrington who is a Catholic Anarchist masquerading as a socialist, tried out a few of my milder ideas on him in the taxi, for which I got half-response, half-worry, and then home to Adele.
This has to be continued tomorrow, for a lot happens yet.
- Adele Morales (1925-2015), who he married in April 1954, was Mailer’s second wife. The mother of his daughters Danielle (b.1957), and Elizabeth Anne (b. 1959), she separated from Mailer in early 1961 a few months after he stabbed her with a penknife, just missing her heart. He pled guilty to felonious assault and was given a suspended sentence. They divorced in 1962.
- A sociologist, Coser (1913-2003), was also an editor at Dissent.
- An Austrian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who worked with Freud, Reich (1897-1957), and was the author of many clinical works, including The Function of the Orgasm (1942). He fled to the U.S. when the Nazis came to power. His eccentric and controversial theory of orgone energy, and the phone-booth size orgone accumulators he invented, got him into legal trouble and he was sent to federal prison where he died. Mailer was influenced by Reich’s ideas about sexual repression and character armor, and built his own orgone box.
- Mailer refers here to the controversial suppression and incineration of books, pamphlets and other materials associated with the orgone therapy of Wilhelm Reich by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which administers the Pure Food and Drug Act. Calling his therapy “a fraud of the first magnitude,” the FDA convinced a court to ban Reich’s materials. Clara Mabel Thompson (1893-1958), a mainstream psychoanalyst, and the followers of social psychiatrist, Harry Stack Sullivan (1892-1949), sided with the FDA’s actions against Reich. Reich continued to sell and ship his orgone accumulators, was convicted of contempt, and died in federal prison while serving a two-year sentence.
- A history professor and former Trotskyite, Stanley Plastrik (1915-1981) was the secretary of the editorial board of Dissent.
- An old Bolshevik and close associate of Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov (1890-1986) was the U.S.S.R.’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1939-1949, and 1953-1956. He signed a fateful non-aggression pact with Hitler’s foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop in 1939.
- A wealthy Russian émigré and shady businessman whose father financed the last Russian Tsar, Sergei Rubinstein (1897-1955) was murdered by strangulation in his New York City apartment. The crime is still unsolved. Mailer’s interest in the case foreshadows his later interest in sensational crime stories.
- Literary critic and founding editor of the leftist quarterly Dissent, Irving Howe (1920-93) asked Mailer in 1953 to serve on its editorial board, which he did for three decades. Mailer published several essays in Dissent, including his most influential, “The White Negro” (1957). Perhaps his most important work is Politics and the Novel (1957).