The Mailer Review/Volume 2, 2008/Tributes to Norman Mailer/From a Novelist in Waiting

From Project Mailer
« The Mailer ReviewVolume 2 Number 1 • 2008 • In Memorium: Norman Mailer: 1923–2007 »
Written by
David Light

I first met Norman Mailer in 1961. I was in Grade 7, and I loved to read war stories and novels. I picked up a paperback copy of The Naked and the Dead in a department store, and, after reading it, I decided I wanted to become a writer, just like Norman Mailer. I had written several short horror stories in grades 6 and 7. So I decided to write a novel. I started by copying The Naked and the Dead from page 1, to get a feel for vocabulary, which I knew I would need for the novel. I never got beyond page 3. But I wanted to write a war novel — just like Mr. Mailer.

I met Norman Mailer again when I was in college, Why Are We in Vietnam? and The Armies of the Night. I took a few writing courses and tried writing the novel again. Instead of becoming a writer, I became a teacher. No novel was written.

The next time I met Norman Mailer was in 1973, when my wife gave me a copy of Marilyn as a second anniversary gift. I still hadn’t written the novel. For the next twenty-four years, I was both a teacher and a principal of a high school. My wife and I raised a family. Still, no novel was written.

I really met Norman Mailer in April 1997. My wife and I went to Boston to see him at Borders Books, where he was going to speak about The Gospel According to the Son and sign copies of the book. We arrived four hours before he spoke. I sat in the second row, dead center. It was a small crowd. I asked him two questions. He answered them with interest and enthusiasm. And he signed my books. And he shook my hand. What a thrill. A gentleman, indeed. I was in the presence of greatness.

Then I met Mike Lennon, Barry Leeds, and John Whalen-Bridge. We created The Norman Mailer Society, which had its first conference and meeting in 2003. I became the treasurer of The Norman Mailer Society. Me. And I really met Norman Mailer — again and again and again. Here it is, 2008. And Norman Mailer has passed on. And I still haven’t written the novel. And I have retired from thirty-eight years in education.

I will write that novel, Mr. Mailer. And I will dedicate it to you.