May 21, 2005

The Naked and the Senile Dementia

HAVING ONCE SEEN THE AGED NORMAN MAILER NAKED, any subsequent appearance by the befuddled sage of Brooklyn Heights brings that image back and causes my brain to cringe. It's hard to take a once admired writer seriously after a glance at the wreck time has made of his body, but usually the wisdom that comes with age overcomes the multiplying flaws of the decrepit container.

Alas, as we have seen often in the past, and now again in the present, wisdom has not seen fit to visit Mailer, the aging hipster. Instead we are reminded again of the dreadful toll taken on the old by creeping senile dementia. How else can we explain Mailer's dreadful tour de drool on the execrable The Huffington Post? Long gone is any effort to

use Occam's Razor to explain the vile little media game played by Newsweek to enhance its standing in Proctologists Office's nationwide. Instead what is left of Mailer's mind turns back to the past once again and hunkers down over old resentments to feed.

I'm trying to get away from posting towards the news and commenting on the "Blogswarm du Jour" unless I can bring some sort of personal angle to bear on it that is not found elsewhere in the thousand posting glut that follows the lead of three or four pages. Too much of a muchness. But since Mailer and I once briefly shared a gym in the Heights and since I once blundered into his showering moment, and ran screaming from the locker room with the image seared SEARED! into my memory, this -- vaguely -- qualifies.

Better still, Mailer's eructation for Ariana Huffington's "I've Got Millions, You Write for Free" experiment in Celebrity Journalism is a textbook example of why some people need either a editor or a ball-gag.

Let's take a close look at the ravages senile dementia has wrought of what was once thought of as the greatest writing mind of about three years in the mid-20th century:

"I'm beginning to see why one would want to write a blog. At present, I have a few thoughts I can certainly not prove...."

Actually, he's got a few trainloads of thoughts he "can certainly not prove" including, as we see in Ancient Evenings," thoughts of fellatio performed on mummies. (I'll leave it to others or to trained therapists to imagine the deeper meaning to that concept.) I too have both thoughts I certainly cannot prove but I tend to keep them to myself. Perhaps thoughts I "can certainly not prove" are different. Perhaps Mailer means to say that thoughts can be true even if one "can certainly not prove" them or prove them with less than certainty. It doesn't matter since you 'can certainly not understand' what he's saying to a certainty.

"....the gaffe over the Michael Isikoff story in Newsweek concerning the Koran and the toilet is redolent with bad odor."

Male writers as they enter their dotage have two common obsessions. The first is a fixation on bowel movements and the equipment provided. The second is for bad puns. A kind and gentle editor would have saved Mailer from this embarrassment. Alas, Ariana provides neither editing or payment for her writers. It might cut into the millions she scarfed off her ex-husband's fortune so that she could pursue her relentless need for ego-enhancement and pool boys.

"Who, indeed, was Isikoff's supposedly reliable Pentagon source? One's counter-espionage hackles rise."

Yes, one's hackles do, don't they? Especially when the aging brain's habit of seeing enemies, enemies everywhere kicks in without a filter. As old age wraps its fist around a man, the whole world conspires against him. Hackles are about the only thing to rise and hence one is especially sensitive to them.

"If you want to discredit a Dan Rather or a Newsweek crew, just feed them false information from a hitherto reliable source. You learn that in Intelligence 101A."

I missed the moment when Mailer was a certified agent of anything other than his own twisted agenda. He evidently missed the other thing you learn in "Intelligence 101A" -- which is to shut up.

"Counter-espionage often depends on building "reliable sources." You construct such reliability item by secret item, all accurate. That is seen by the intelligence artists as a necessary expenditure. It gains the source his credibility. Then, you spring the trap."

Mailer, as seen here and in his novels of the last 30 years, obviously missed the Famous Writers School course, "Plots, Wooden 101A"

"As for the riots at the other end, on this occasion, they, too, could have been orchestrated. We do have agents in Pakistan, after all, not to mention Afghanistan."

Translation: America, having been so generous and good to me for all of my squandered life, must therefore be evil everywhere. How else to account that a doofus like me could once have been so admired?

"Obviously, I can offer no proof of any of the above."

Since it didn't happen that way (Islamic fanatics are perfectly capable of killing Muslims in wholesale quantities all by their lonesome.), there can be no proof. Obviously.

"There still resides, however, under my aging novelist's pate a volunteer intelligence agent, sadly manque."

Again, a kindly editor would have cut "aging," questioned "pate," deleted "sadly," and pointed out that because "manque" means "Unfulfilled or frustrated in the realization of one's ambitions or capabilities" with the typical examples of "an artist manqué; a writer manqué." it might not be the best word for the writer in his present condition.

Sadly, Huffington does not fund an editor that would protect this sad and aging volunteer writer with a pate that seems all but stove in. Alas, the revealing confessional is allowed to run its course.

"At the age of eighty-two I do not wish to revive old paranoia,..."

Yes, Norman, you do. It is all that you wish for since, wisdom and multiple wives having fled you long ago, paranoia is now your only dependable life partner. Bring it on.

"Lenin did leave us one valuable notion, one, at any rate."

Only one? Surely, Norman, you can think of others. After all, Lenin actually achieved the power that eluded you in your many clown shows that sought elected office.

It was 'Whom?' When you cannot understand a curious matter, ask yourself, 'Whom? Whom does this benefit?' "

That's it? That's the "one valuable notion" left by Lenin before he became an exhibit in the Soviet Wax Museum? I'm no Lenin scholar, but my aging mind is not so far gone that it can't think of a few others beginning with "Just shoot any political opposition and keep shooting them."

And "Whom?" Perhaps it might be the formal grammar from your schooldays kicking in, Norman, but I think that it is an odds-on certainty that Lenin probably said "Who." After all, it is not "Whom's Whom," but "Who's Who."

"Dare I suggest that our Right has just gained a good deal by way of this matter?"

Go ahead and dare to suggest, Norman. Once you've made up the premise, the conclusion is inescapable to the demented mind. Drive that Rascal along the route in Dealey Plaza and shuffle that walker over to the grassy knoll and re-live those great days once again.

"In every covert Department of Dirty Tricks, whether official, semi-official, or off-the-wall, great pride is best obtained by going real deep into down-and-dirty-land—Yeah! "

Again, the kindly but nonexistent Huffington editor would have saved the old man from staining himself by cutting "whether official, semi-official, or off-the-wall" and noting that the author has just included the entire real and imagined universe in this statement and thus said nothing, nothing at all.

And, oh yeah, the editor would have cut the Howard Dean "Yeah!" at the end. Otherwise, it just leaves the old man's mind exposed as both naked and dead.

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Posted by Vanderleun at May 21, 2005 8:09 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Lenin's actual 'one thing' is Kto kovo, (roughly) Who, to whom? In a zero sum world, every gain is someone's loss, every owned property is theft from someone else. Identify this dynamic in every transaction and relationship, and you can generate resentment and hatred and class warfare ... if that's your goal.
Norman remembers the point, but he's getting sketchy on the details. Sad.

Posted by: Kelly at May 21, 2005 10:09 AM

Wait... You mean Mailer finds it more plausible to believe that "agents in the Pentagon are tricking journalists into printing anti-American lies so that bloggers will discredit them" than to believe "sometimes journalists are too lazy to confirm stories by anonymous sources"?

Kelly's right... Sad.

Posted by: Harvey at May 21, 2005 10:51 AM

Kelly beat me to it here, but I just posted a long comment on Mailer and "Who whom?" here.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil at May 21, 2005 11:12 AM

Huffington's blog is indeed execrable, but you link to it? Sir - why encourage the blogosphere version of rubber-necking at an accident?

Posted by: P.A. Breault at May 21, 2005 11:23 AM
When you cannot understand a curious matter, ask yourself, 'Whom? Whom does this benefit?' "

On what plane of reality would it benefit Bush to stir up Islamic outrage in Afghanistan? The occupation and reconstruction has been amazingly successful. Does Mailer really believe Rove would jeopardize that just to put one over on Mike Isikoff?

Posted by: Allah, blogger manque at May 21, 2005 12:54 PM

There is no plane of reality present in the doddering remnants of the "american intellectual."

Say or think "Bush" and all reality just blows away into dusty sputtering.

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at May 21, 2005 1:30 PM

Doesn't "Cui bono?" predate Ulyanov?

Posted by: mrp at May 21, 2005 1:56 PM

Huffington? I thought Gerard was linking to Huffington-TOAST! That's kinda kewl, but to Huffington-ghost, with its inclusion of Norman (Post-natal) Mailer... UN-kewl, in extremis!

GVdL, gitcher act together, Lad!

Posted by: Carridine at May 21, 2005 6:54 PM

I personaly could not stand Mailer's writing, even in his heyday--he was so very very full of himself. But it is interesting to speculate, based on the evidence of this blog entry, whether a goodly portion of whatever writing talent he may once have possessed was actually a product of good editing.

Posted by: neo-neocon at May 21, 2005 8:54 PM


Allah, surely you know that the pravda is that the reconstruction of Afghanistan, far from being amazingly successful, is in fact a terrible failure. Don't you know that the country is "decrepit" and "ruled by warlords", and that the people miss the orderly and pious Taliban? Go betake yourself to a re-education center.

Clearly, Darth Rove was desperate for a distraction from the utter failure of Chimperor McHitler's bloodthirsty policies and therefore it is entirely plausible that the CIA would trick an upstanding journalist into printing a lie, and be ready with agents provocateurs to create a scripted "riot" that would take public attention off the disaster in Iraq.

(You think I'm being sarcastic, or exaggerating. I'm not.)

Posted by: jaed at May 22, 2005 3:53 AM

Isn't the “redolent…odor” comment a play on words rather than a pun?

Posted by: Dave Schuler at May 22, 2005 6:42 AM

you are a total ass hole. Total. No percentage off.

Posted by: wretching over you at May 29, 2005 8:52 PM
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