Norman Mailer’s new biographer, being interviewed by Amy Brady for the Village Voice:
[Mailer] came out of the Mad Men era of the Fifties and thought that men needed to be strong and masculine, but [he] was never accused of hurting any women.
Brady politely demurs:
He stabbed his wife!
It’s not clear how could have “forgotten” this famous incident, but Lennon can certainly dig himself deeper:
Oh, he stabbed his wife, yeah. He…had a complex relationship with women, and he regretted many of the things he said about them. He knew those things were stupid. But his point of view was, well, “I am doing this to create a debate.”
This is the particular “complexity” under discussion:
When Mailer returned at 4:30 a.m. to find all of the guests departed but for the “five or six” who remained in the dining room and Morales getting ready for bed, the altercation broke out. The enraged Mailer burst into the room and Morales taunted his heterosexual masculinity and made a disparaging reference to his mistress. Mailer rushed at her, stabbing her with a rusty two-and-a-half inch penknife, once in the back and once through her breast, puncturing her cardiac sac and narrowly missing her heart. Mailer addressed the shocked guests standing over Morales’ prostrate body, saying “Don’t touch her. Let the bitch die”. Morales was rushed downstairs to the apartment of novelist Doc Hume and from there in a taxi cab to University Hospital for emergency surgery.
But he was just doing it to provoke a debate about Campus P.C. and whether feminism has GONE TOO FAR!
We’ve had the “bad person/[sporadically in this case] good work” argument before, and I’m not saying that Mailer’s misogyny and violence towards women means that his best work should be ignored. I don’t plan to stop listening to James Brown or George Jones or God knows how many other serial domestic abusers are in my iTunes. But denying it is another matter.