Norman Mailer Insults Your Favorite Writers

It’s not quite a Comedy Central Roast, but it’s close. In an article for Salon about Norman Mailer and his new biography, Allen Barra shares some one-liners from Mailer about his contemporaries.

J.D. Salinger: “I seem to be alone in finding him no more than the greatest mind ever to stay in prep school.”

Mary McCarthy: “’The Group’ is the best novel the editors of the women’s magazines ever conceived in their secret ambitions.”

Saul Bellow: “I cannot take him seriously as a major novelist. I do not think he knows anything about people, nor about himself.”

Ralph Ellison: “Essentially a hateful writer: when the line of his satire is pure, he writes so perfectly that one can never forget the experience of reading him. It is like holding a live electric wire in one’s hand.”

Truman Capote: “A stylist and a very good writer, but he’s not done anything memorable lately.” (This was in 1980. He did once call “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” “a small classic.”)

Jack Kerouac: “Lacks discipline.”

Gore Vidal: “A wit and a good essayist. Not a good novelist.”

Thomas Pynchon: “I’ve never been able to read him. I just can’t get through the bananas in ‘Gravity’s Rainbow.’”

Barra notes, “If the comment on Saul Bellow is a little bitchy, it should be admitted that not all of Mailer’s critical opinions were wrong. It should also be admitted that several of these criticisms could be applied to Mailer himself.”

Read the rest of the article here.

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