Norman Mailer admired my chest – because I was wearing my book cover!

Commenting on my post about blatant self-promotion, Marvin D. Wilson advised me to “let it all hang out” when it comes to hyping my books. The phrase brought back a treasured memory from 2007 – the night Norman Mailer gave me a beatific grin while he ogled my chest.

Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer

Mailer was at the New York State Writers Institute in the spring of 2007 reading from his latest book, and as it turned out, his last – his controversial novel The Castle in the Forest, about Hitler’s childhood. Page Hall was packed to overflowing. Though Mailer hobbled to the stage with difficulty, his reading and the Q&A that followed was strong, lucid and entertaining. As I recall, he said he was still following a disciplined writing schedule. Someone asked if he was planning to write a sequel about Hitler’s adulthood, and he replied that realistically, he didn’t believe he would live long enough. He died later that year, on November 10th.

I bought the book, of course, and joined the long line for autographs. We admirers had our instructions – he would sign his name only. No personal inscriptions, and no chitchat. As I inched slowly toward his table, I could see how frail, fatigued and bored he looked. I was wearing my turquoise tee-

Order from Amazon or
Order from Amazon or

shirt with the cover of Mood Swing emblazoned on my chest. I threw open my jacket and proclaimed, “This is my first novel!”  His face lit up, and he blessed me with a radiant grin I’ll always treasure in memory. 

I know he wasn’t grinning at my feminine endowments, because I haven’t got anything to brag about in that department. But I like to think I brightened up the signing for him. I’m not a huge fan of Mailer’s, and I know many women detest him as a male chauvinist pig (does anyone use that phrase anymore?) But I admire him as an American master of great stature and productivity. The flyleaf of The Castle in the Forest  lists 35 books, fiction and non-fiction, covering an enormous range of topics and spanning almost six decades. You’ve got to admire that kind of self-discipline and dedication.

I’m going to wear that same tee-shirt tonight. There’s a free dinner for members and staff at my local YMCA, so I’m going to don my bra (which I almost never wear, as an underendowed and aging child of the Sixties), flaunt my chest and flog my books. But I doubt anyone will give me a grin as great as the one I got from Norman Mailer. 



5 thoughts on “Norman Mailer admired my chest – because I was wearing my book cover!

  1. Thanks, Nancy. I’ve been wondering if my BSP is getting too obnoxious here on line, so I’m glad someone enjoyed my post. My shirt didn’t get any attention at the Y – the event was just a feeding frenzy. Fifteen area restaurants had offered free food, but they hadn’t brought enough for the crowd, so people were just milling around trying to get the last soggy coleslaw and meatballs.

  2. Julie,

    This is a great story! I’ve been through many of those lines at Page Hall and the Recital Hall. Sometimes I hate that feeling of being a groupie…like I’m not a real writer or something. But that’s priceless.

    I’ll also be checking back to see how things are going… I’m a bit further back in the process, as I’m working on the (hopefully) last revisions of my novel, Walking with the Dogs. You’re an inspiration! (I read your later posts, too, but felt compelled to respond to the Norman Mailer story!!)


    • Alyssa,
      Great to hear from you on my blog – I hope you’ll visit again, and leave comments. Lesley said you went to the Skidmore International Womens Writers Guild Conference – I look forward to hearing about it!

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