Norman Mailer: Works and Days/Preface

From Project Mailer
Written by
Norman Mailer

Sometimes I think that Michael Lennon and I were as designed for each other as some species of American Yin and Yang, as hot dogs, perhaps, and mustard. His talents, his discipline, and his ambition form a complement to all the slacks, voids, and indolences of my nature. Which is not to say that I see myself as untalented, unambitious and without discipline, no, it is rather that what I am good at, I am pretty good at, yes, but my interest in what I have written has a short half-life. Once I finish a piece of work, my interest moves to other matters, and all is left to my filing system. In truth, I have no system other than to throw old manuscripts and letters into manila envelopes and deposit them in cartons.

Norman Mailer and Mike Lennon in Munich, 1980.

Without the participation of my good friend Mike as a pro bono archivist, my literary estate would have long ago become a dumping ground of moldering unlabelled cardboard boxes. By his efforts, however, which go back over more than two decades, my literary artifacts have since become well-organized, indeed, so well-organized by his passion for precision and documentation that the result could appear obscene to me in its perfection, if it were not for the fact that I need and use it like a bone with its marrow. Should the gods who look after posthumous literary life choose to decide in my favor — an assumption that no writer can make with confidence what with literary history flinging many a good dead writer off the road — then, for certain, if a reasonable denouement does come to my work, the materials to support this scribbler have been put in place. And should I end by occupying no larger place than a footnote in literary history, it will not be the fault of Michael Lennon. Those historic tides that carry a few authors' boats to the golden islands of posthumous investiture will have felt his hand on the tiller. So let these words serve to express the size of my debt.

Three cheers for my friend, Mike Lennon, and my own private ovation for Works and Days.