Norman Mailer leaves the building

The one thing I could never figure out about Norman was what it is that possesses a man to get married six times:

…counting a quickie with Carol Stevens, whom he married and divorced within a couple of days in 1980 to grant legitimacy to their daughter, Maggie.

But, leaving that mystery aside, he did have other, more comprehensible, hobbies:

At different points in his life Mr. Mailer was a prodigious drinker and drug taker, a womanizer, a devoted family man, a would-be politician who ran for mayor of New York, a hipster existentialist, an antiwar protester, an opponent of women’s liberation and an all-purpose feuder and short-fused brawler, who with the slightest provocation would happily engage in head-butting, arm-wrestling and random punch-throwing. Boxing obsessed him and inspired some of his best writing. Any time he met a critic or a reviewer, even a friendly one, he would put up his fists and drop into a crouch.

With all that going for him, he should have lived well beyond 84. He took to clean, organic livin’ early:

For much of the ’50s he drifted, frequently drunk or stoned or both, and affected odd accents: British, Irish, gangster, Texan. In 1955, together with two friends, Daniel Wolf and Edwin Fancher, he founded The Village Voice, and while writing a column for that paper he began to evolve what became his trademark style — bold, poetic, metaphysical, even shamanistic at times — and his personal philosophy of hipsterism. It was a homespun, Greenwich Village version of existentialism, which argued that the truly with-it, blacks and jazz musicians especially, led more authentic lives and enjoyed better orgasms.

Bon voyage, Mailer. You were an explorer not of the National Geographic kind.

The full Times obituary is here.

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