Roger Shattuck, June 8, 1965

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NORMAN MAILER’s Letters
142 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn 1, New York
June 8, 1965

Dear Roger,[1]

I didn’t mind the review in the Village Voice[2]—I naturally thought it was unduly critical, but since I have two attitudes about the novel, thinking on some days that it’s a marvelous piece of crap and on others that it’s the only thing new anybody has done since god knows when, since Catch-22 or Studs Lonigan, or Christ, since The Sun Also Rises. I read reviews with interest now, looking for a clue. Anyway, yours was interesting.

The idea of the translations intrigues me, but I don’t know yet where or if I would fit. My best language by far is French, only I’ve no desire to translate anything in that language since my French is not nearly good enough. I’ve a smattering of Spanish [and], would like to translate Garcia Lorca’s “Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias.”[3] I read a translation Spender[4] made of that poem once and knew after going through twenty lines that I could do better with my left hand. Still, that isn’t really my heart’s desire, in fact I don’t know that yet. I suspect I’d rather try translating something in a language I know hardly at all. Some early Goethe,[5] or some Latin or Greek. At any rate, Roger, let me think about this for a period, and remind me about this in six months perhaps. You see, right now I’m getting started on another novel, and so certainly don’t want to get into any of this.[6]

Last thought. A guy named Bud Shrake is planning to open a bookstore in Austin, and got a half promise from me to go down for the opening. Perhaps we could work something up with the kids at the same time. Only for four or five days on a campus is not my idea of heaven, since all the college kids I know or have ever met seem to do nothing but ask questions, nine-tenths of them the sort which can be answered by IBM cards, and I always feel like a decrepit machine with burned-out fuses by the time I get away. It’s one thing to live with these kids all year, every year, that I imagine can be just as good as anything else, but, Roger, I don’t know if you have any idea of what it’s like to take them on for twenty-four hours, or seventy-two. No matter, it looks as if we’ll have something to discuss in the fall. Right now I’m off to Provincetown for four months of good work, I hope.


Give my best to Nora,
Norman
This page is part of
An American Dream Expanded.

Notes

  1. Mailer met Roger Shattuck, the art critic, in Brooklyn in the 1950s.
  2. The review in the Village Voice appeared in 1963.
  3. Mailer and his daughter Susan translated and published “Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias” by Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) in The Poetry Bag (winter 1967-68).
  4. Stephen Spender, the poet, was editor of the British publication Queen Magazine in the early 1960s. He published some of Mailer’s poems there in April 1962.
  5. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German man of letters, is greatly admired by Mailer.
  6. This is the “big book” Mailer had been trying to write since 1959. He mentions it in several subsequent letters, but it was abandoned later in the summer when he shifted to work on a stage version of The Deer Park.