Carole Mallory, who claims to have been Norman Mailer’s mistress between 1983 and 1992, sold a collection of papers to Harvard University recently, which include detailed descriptions of their sex life and a selection of her writings during that time period. “We’d have a writing lesson, we’d make love and then go to lunch in whatever order that would be, and I saved all the writing lessons,” said Mallory, 66. “I wanted him to teach me to be a writer.” (AP in The Mercury News)
What the commentators said
Mallory has delivered some serious dirt on Mailer, said Tony Allen-Mills in The Sunday Times. Her papers reveal that she “suspected him of having an affair with a male friend, was worried that he might contract Aids, and refused to indulge his fantasy of three-way sex with a gay man.” Her writings also paint “a devastating portrait of Mailer’s sexual decline from world-class lothario to malfunctioning lover.” Reading the memoir was “extraordinary and occasionally painful,” especially “in a hushed library full of Harvard scholars, one of whom was poring over a volume of 15th-century sermons.”
“Mailer was an exhibitionist, crafting his own highly public life with greater care than his latter novels,” said Lionel Shriver in The Observer, so “he’d eat this stuff up. But perhaps Harvard should be embarrassed.” It’s likely that the University bought these writings because it “missed out on” obtaining Mailer’s “numerous novel typescripts” when he was alive—“he sold them to the University of Texas” in 2005. And does it really matter “what sort of rogue or philanderer wrote the books” we love? “Can we return to the days when writers had mystiques?”
Well, we should at least “salute” Mallory for having the good sense to sell the papers to Harvard, said David Usborne in The Independent. They could have ended up in much worse hands. And she did wait “until after her former lover’s death before putting the papers on the market out of respect for his family.” But then again, Mailer’s “deceived wife is still living.”
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