“The most electric of nations must naturally provide the boldest circuits of coincidence,” Norman Mailer proclaimed. My coincidences involving the writer my not amount to anything grand or revealing, but they might be worth mentioning all the same. Twice now Mailer-related work of mine which was written earlier appeared in print very soon after one of my subject’s death.
The title essay of Fighters & Writers was first published in an edition of The Mailer Review commemorating the novelist’s life soon after it ended. I discuss several writers, but Mailer does figure prominently in the piece. I’d started composing it years earlier and finally finished it soon before he died in 2007. In another essay in the collection, I mention a critic who made a derisive remark about Mailer in something that ran soon after the public memorial service held to honor the author of The Naked and the Dead, The Fight and The Executioner’s Song.
Which brings me to coincidence number two. The January/February 2011 issue of The American Interest contains my assessment of three Mailer-focused memoirs, including A Ticket to the Circus by Norris Church Mailer, who died on November 21, 2010. I wrote the not-very-kind review essay a few months before it actually ended up in the magazine.
While my essays about Mailer and his wife simply happened to show up soon after their deaths, two instances of this put me in uncomfortably proximity to the narrator of J.G. Ballard’s story “Now: Zero” who believes his writing about people can spell their demise…
Flipping through a copy of TAI, I stumbled on minor coincidences of another kind. On one page I saw a reference to Edith Wharton; on another, a poem by Walt Whitman. As it happens, the fourth short film in the Poetry In Pictures Series is based on a Wharton poem; the second, on a Whitman poem. (I wrote the third.)