Reflections 2015

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« The Mailer ReviewVolume 9 Number 1 • 2015 • Maestro »

It is with profound sadness that we observe the recent passing of Barry H. Leeds (1940–2015), a dear friend of so many Mailer enthusiasts, colleagues, and especially the students whom he so loved for so long. Barry Leeds led an adventurous life, joining the U.S. Merchant Marine at the age of sixteen, serving as a seaman on five ships from 1957 to 1960. Professor Leeds then began his academic career, receiving his doctorate in English at Ohio University in 1967 and beginning a teaching career at Connecticut State University that lasted forty-seven years. Overall, his teaching career spanned fifty-two years. Prof. Leeds was honored for his lifetime of teaching and scholarship by being named CSU Distinguished Professor in 1981. This award was most fitting as Barry Leeds always considered himself a teacher, first and foremost. He was the author of four books and hundreds of articles. Among his most influential books is one of the first books published on Norman Mailer, Leeds’ favorite author: The Structured Vision of Norman Mailer (1969) and The Enduring Vision Norman Mailer (2002). His deep and broad scholarship left a rich legacy; Leeds will continue to be known as a precise and rigorous scholar in the literary tradition. Any scholar working on Norman Mailer must consider the work of Barry Leeds.

Barry Leeds was one of the founding members of The Norman Mailer Society, going back to the pre-Society birthing pains in 2002 and long nights of midwifery. Indeed, the Society would not have been born and would not have flourished without Barry’s guiding hand as the only vice president the Society has ever had. Barry worked tirelessly and enthusiastically with Michael Lennon, the founding President of the Society. Barry Leeds was never reticent to express his views and he was always motivated to vigorously support any course of action that would benefit the Society’s mission to nourish and sustain the legacy of Norman Mailer. Barry Leeds was truly indefatigable and his words published over many years in the Review are testimony to his resiliency in establishing the continuing reputation of Mailer.

I was honored to have known Barry and to have shared with him our mutual passion for literature and so many other mutual interests. When The Mailer Review was first proposed to The Norman Mailer Society membership in 2006, Barry Leeds, along with Michael Lennon, were the strongest proponents to advocate that the Society embrace and underwrite the journal. In consequence, the motion to launch the Review passed unanimously and I was honored to be named founding editor. Barry immediately offered to assist me on the editorial side as there were no original staff members — and his help was beneficial and deeply appreciated over the next nine years. Barry had been editor-in-chief of Connecticut Review, an interdisciplinary scholarly journal, from 1989–1992, and a member of its editorial board for over a decade, beginning in 1986. His immense wealth of experience and innumerable contributions to the journal over the next nine years have been salutary, both on our pages and behind the scenes. His intellectual and scholarly contributions will never be equaled, yet it is a niche in our hearts that remains as we go on without our beloved friend. Barry Leeds was and is a force that will never leave me and he will always be part of the spiritual fabric of the Review. Goodbye, Barry, our dear friend.

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Edgar Alan Doctorow, sadly, passed away this past summer after an illustrious career as an outstanding historical novelist. Mr. Doctorow was a significant person in the life of Norman Mailer. It was Doctorow who edited An American Dream when he served as an editor at Dial Press in the mid-1960s. Mailer never forgot the relationship that was forged between the two men at a time when Mailer’s career was at a critical stage in its trajectory. Time passed and these American literary artists moved on to other things in their respective escalating careers. In 2005, they rekindled their friendship when Doctorow agreed to give the keynote address at The Norman Mailer Society Conference in Provincetown. Mailer was delighted to reunite with his old editor and friend. There was a small luncheon at the Mailer house and the two literary lions were in fine mettle, roaring and exploring their respective interests and experiences, old and new, the entire afternoon. It was a true pleasure to observe their interest in and affection for each other.

It is with profound sadness that I inform you of the passing of Professor Donald L. Kaufmann on October 13, 2015. Professor Kaufmann was one of the early Mailer scholars and he was a long-time friend of Norman Mailer. Professor Kaufmann’s contributions to the Mailer legacy will appear in the 2016 issue of the Review.

Phillip Sipiora