Pete Hamill, July 6, 1964

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NORMAN MAILER’s Letters
597 Commercial Street
Provincetown, Massachusetts
July 6, 1964

Dear Pete,[1]

I did something very funny with your suggestion about sending a copy of The Presidential Papers to Floyd. Usually certain in the old days, I would have moved fast on such a thought. But this time it just didn’t feel right. I felt spooked by the whole thing, as if I wouldn’t forgive myself if Floyd happened to read the piece and then lost to Machen.[2] Floyd’s probably forgotten this, but I sent him some tearsheets of the piece when we were out in Las Vegas, and Sammy Taub[3] said that he delivered them to Floyd personally (which may not have been true) but I can tell you that I was glad to hear Floyd never read it, because I felt spooked by the Las Vegas fight, as if Floyd had read it, and it had gotten him thinking of other things and all of a sudden his mind was somewhere else and he walked in on Sonny at the end of the first minute in that first round. Anyway, Machen is his kind of fighter. If he’s going to be able to beat him, I’m sure he’ll be able to beat him without any assistance from me, and then maybe would be the time to send it to him.

The gossip about the book and the money it’s making is way off. At present there’s no movie sale, just an option. And there’s a good chance the option won’t be picked up because Warner’s wants me to change the title and I’ve told them I don’t want to. (It seems audiences will not go to see a movie which as the word American in it. At least, that’s what all the money in Hollywood has decided.) No, the book has done well, but the figure is one third as large as you’ve been reading, and so I’m hardly yet in the ranks of the wealthy. But still, after alimony and taxes, I ought to have at least two years free to myself in which I don’t have to sweat the production of each week’s bread. I think you’re right about the reviews. I think they’re going to be murderous, and indeed I’m already half resigned to that. If they’re too bad, maybe I’ll leave the country in protest, a la Henry James.

Actually, the idea of moving seems tough right now. I’ve got all my kids with me and we’re having a good time up here, we’re on the water, which is the place to be in Provincetown. But the thought of moving this menagerie cum factory is beyond my ambition. I may get over to England for a couple of weeks during the winter, and if I do and you’re still in Dublin, could I fly up to visit for a couple of days, maybe? I’ve never seen Ireland, and I’d like to very much I think.

Mike is now three and a half months old and a very cute kid, very sweet, and kind of gentle for a boy. And as I said earlier today, wouldn’t that just be the ticket if I end up with a son who’s a dove. Anyway, the Burks comes from Bev’s side, her father’s first name was just that. You can tell Ramona that Mike weighs sixteen pounds now, he’s about sixteen weeks old.

Finally, give my regards to J. F. Powers[4] if you run into him. I read Morte D’Urban a couple of weeks ago, and enjoyed sheer hell out of it. He’s not a great writer, and probably never will be, but he sure is good. Also, say hello to Al[5] when you see him. I ran into Aronowitz at a party for Gunter Grass[6] just about a month ago in New York.

Best for now,
Norman
This page is part of
An American Dream Expanded.

Notes

  1. Journalist and novelist Pete Hamill has been a friend of Mailer since they met in Chicago in 1962.
  2. Eddie Machen, the heavyweight boxer, lost to Floyd Patterson in Stockholm on 5 July 1964
  3. Sammy Taub was a prizefight announcer.
  4. J. F. Powers, the Irish novelist, published Morte D’Urban in 1962.
  5. Al Aronowitz was a sportswriter.
  6. Günter Grass was a German novelist.