Moos Mailer, April 23, 1965

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NORMAN MAILER’s Letters
142 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn 1, New York
April 23, 1965

Dear Moos,

Well, the news about Paddy[1] was awful, but not altogether a surprise, not even on the first time, some months ago, when you wrote about how bad his condition was, because on the night we met him, in the middle of all the gaiety and great fun of the evening, that cough of his would go off like a string of bombs, and there was this grave-diggers sense in the air of all the deep flesh being torn from its circuits. He was a little haunted that night, as if he knew he had forty more good evenings, or just about, and perhaps that added to the intensity of the occasion. I remember about two in the morning we were drinking in a little bar in Brooklyn, and Paddy decided he wanted to order caviar and champagne for Beverly. But the bar, which was a pretentious little affair run by an Italian who’s bartender, head waiter, cook, dishwasher, and lawyer in his spare time, didn’t have any caviar, just little Italian hors d’oeuvres, some little pieces of dough and anchovy and tomato paste. So just to josh him, for we’d been teasing each other a little to keep the salt in our good mood, I leaned over to Paddy and said, “You promised me caviar, and all I got was a pizza pie.” Well, his eyes flashed. You would have thought I stuck a harpoon in him. For a moment I thought I’d blown the evening. And in fact I shook it, he was so hurt. So then I realized almost too late what a perfectionist he was.

Anyway, my dear, I’ve written a letter to his wife, as you can see by the enclosure. And if she’s agreeable to showing it to you, which I’m certain she will be, I think you’d be interested to read it. It’s one of the very few times that I’ve written a letter of condolence without feeling as if I’d given away a piece of the immortal substance.

Well, An American Dream has been out about a month, and has received the very best and the very worst reviews of anything I’ve ever written. Some of the critics screamed and gnashed their teeth. Some could hardly contain themselves at the over-developments apparently secreted in my nose, some wrote as if they would not get a good night’s sleep until they caught me in an alley, and some were generous beyond belief. John Aldridge in Life magazine said the writing was better than anything since the best of Faulkner. That was how it went. At present the book is selling fairly well, though not extraordinarily. It’s very hard to tell because something like 30 thousand copies are out in the bookstores, and a book that is #1 on the best seller list sometimes sells no more than two or three thousand a week. At any rate the book is #8 on the Times list and was reported first at Brentano’s, the largest bookstore here, so it’s much too early to know just how well it will do. In about two months the answer may be in.

Love,
Norman
This page is part of
An American Dream Expanded.

Notes

  1. Paddy was an English friend of Moos.