The Spooky Art

The Spooky Art by Norman Mailer Read Free Book Online

Book: The Spooky Art by Norman Mailer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Norman Mailer
Tags: Non-Fiction, Philosophy, Art, Writing
publishing back twenty years.
    ALFRED KNOPF TO AN EDITOR: Is this your idea of the kind of book which should bear a Borzoi imprint?
    The lawyer for one publishing house complimented me on the ten lines, word for word, which had excited Rinehart to break his contract. This lawyer said, “It’s admirable the way you get around the problem here.” Then he brought out more than a hundred objections to other parts of the book. One was the line, “She was lovely. Her back was adorable in its contours.” I was told that this ought to go because “the principals are not married, and so your description puts a favorable interpretation upon a meretricious relationship.”
    Hiram Hayden had lunch with me some time after Random House saw the book. He told me he was responsible for their decision not to do it, and if I did not agree with his taste, I had to admire his honesty—it is rare for an editor to tell a writer that kind of truth. Hayden went on to say that the book never came alive for him even though he had been ready to welcome it. “I can tell you that I picked the book up with anticipation. Of course I had heard from Bill, and Bill had told me that he didn’t like it, but I never pay attention to what one writer says about the work of another.…” Bill was William Styron, and Hayden was his editor. I had asked Styron to call Hayden the night I found out Rinehart had broken his contract. One reason for asking the favor of Styron was that he sent me a long letter about the novel after I had shown it to him in manuscript. He hadwritten, “I don’t like
The Deer Park
, but I admire sheer hell out of it.” So I thought to impose on him.
    Other parts of the account are not less dreary. The only generosity I found was from Jack Goodman. He sent me a photostat of his editorial report to Simon and Schuster and, because it was sympathetic, his report became the objective estimate of the situation for me. I assumed that the book when it came out would meet the kind of trouble Goodman expected, and so when I went back later to work on the page proofs I was not free of a fear or two. But that can be talked about in its place. Here is the core of his report.
    Mailer refuses to make any changes. [He]
consider suggestions, but reserves the right to make final decisions, so we must make our decision on what the book now is.
    That’s not easy. It is full of vitality and power, as readable a novel as I’ve ever encountered. Mailer emerges as a sort of post-Kinsey F. Scott Fitzgerald. His dialogue is uninhibited and the sexuality of the book is completely interwoven with its purpose, which is to describe a segment of society whose morality is nonexistent. Locale is evidently Palm Springs. Chief characters are Charles Eitel, movie director who first defies the House Un-American Committee, then becomes a friendly witness, his mistress, a great movie star who is his ex-wife, her lover who is the narrator, the head of a great movie company, his son-in-law, a strange, tortured panderer who is Eitel’s conscience, and assorted demimondaines, homosexuals, actors.
    My layman’s opinion is that the novel will be banned in certain quarters and that it may very well be up for an obscenity charge, but this should of course be checked by our lawyers. It it were possible to recognize this at the start, to have a united front here and treat the whole issue positively and head-on, I would be for our publishing. But I am afraid such unanimity may be impossible of attainment and if so, we should reject, in spite of the fact that I am certain it will be one of the best-selling novels of the next couple of years. It is the work of a serious artist.…
    The eighth house was G. P. Putnam’s. I didn’t want to give it to them. I was planning to go next to Viking, but Walter Mintonkept saying, “Give us three days. We’ll give you a decision in three days.” So we sent it over to Putnam, and in three days they took it without conditions, and

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