Monday, Aug. 09, 2010

Norman Mailer

Long before his attempted entry into politics, Norman Mailer was a giant in the literary world. His 1960 account of the rise of John F. Kennedy, "Superman Comes to the Supermarket," has been called one of the greatest magazine stories of all time and he won both a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for his 1968 "nonfiction novel" Armies of the Night. But his celebrity had as much to do with his bizarre behavior as his writing. In a 1960 booze binge, Mailer stabbed his wife with a penknife he'd found in the street, then went on television to announce his intention to run for mayor of New York City. He told journalist Mike Wallace he wanted to deal with juvenile delinquents by holding gangland jousting tournaments in Central Park to "bring back the Middle Ages."

Nine years, two literary prizes and one involuntary psychiatric admittance later, Mailer was back on the campaign trail. He aligned himself with popular newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin, who was running for city-council president, and the two ran in the Democratic primary on a platform endorsing New York City's status as the 51st state. Their campaign slogan was "Throw the Rascals In." New Yorkers chose, instead, to toss the rascals out, as Mailer came in fourth in a field of five candidates.