March 8, 2007
Books: Mailer scrutinizes evil in form of young Hitler
(Page 3 - Previous Page)And he switched, almost seamlessly from public performance to writing. Thus, he tried on the voice of a senior WASP figure in the CIA in one novel and wrote in the third person of Mailer, a leading actor in his novel as history, "The Armies of the Night." There appeared to be nothing left for him, but to try on the devil's voice. One saw bits of Mailer as performer at The Writer's Bloc event.
Mailer at 84 is a figure with a back that curves over into a question mark. He is now a fragile man, reduced in height to about 5-foot-4. He can walk only with the aid of two canes. But the mind, the wit and the command of language are all still there, not one whit diminished. He was still the contrarian. He denounced political correctness, the women's movement, television and technology -- all familiar themes, the performer replaying old lines, almost from memory.
But then, on a closing note, sparring (as always) with the audience, he remarked with an amused shake of his head: What's good for the Jews, he said disapprovingly.
What could be more paranoid than that?
Gene Lichtenstein is a psychologist in Los Angeles. He was the founding editor of The Jewish Journal (1986-2000). More than 40 years ago, he worked as a literary editor in New York, where he occasionally encountered Norman Mailer.