As a supplement to this week’s episode-length tribute to Deceased Artiste Norman Mailer, I offer this clip from a French TV documentary that I couldn’t fit into the show. It’s a classic bit of Mailer philosophy: on the surface it sounds a bit crackpotty, as if he’s fixated on something that is rather obvious. Underneath most of Mailer’s stranger or more extreme comments, though — as when he ran for Mayor of NYC, and among his platforms was a pitch to rid the city of bad architecture and “tissue-box buildings” — was an attention to conceptual thinking. This sort of thing is passé in this day and age, and is fact thought of as too intellectual and haughty for our really dumb-ass culture, but Norman was a feisty and cantankerous individual (even when young), so his tying in the numbing of the American society through plastic products with our immense thirst for violence is the kind of “colorful” conceptual connection that did allow him to be a guest on both the “smart” television programs (from Dick Cavett, Susskind, and William Buckley to the more dimwitted and ponderous Charlie Rose) and the pop-entertainment set (Carson, Mike Douglas, Merv, the fledgling Oprah). This kind of writer still exists, but just you try and catch them on the tube outside of CSPAN’s “Book Talk” or a fun but “guided” segment on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.
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