Put a Lid on It

"Stop Me Before I Write Again!"

How often we must reflect today that the salt hath lost its savor. At a "reading" at Queens College not long ago, I saw and heard Norman Mailer reading "poems" to his audience. He showed all the innocent delight of a child, and he was well received. But Mailer, rich and approaching his 80's, had little need to show up for such an exercise except the biggest one of all. Getting his fix of applause and his ego boosted yet once more, the bloated, jug-eared old geezer was again the good bad boy of his own dreams. The whole thing was as sweet as it was absurd, but there was not the savor of the old Village Voice effusions, or The Deer Park, or An American Dream, written under the gun serially back in the 60's. Nearly 40 years ago, Norman Mailer had already called himself "Normal Failure" and acknowledged that he had not fulfilled his youthful promise. Yet today, he is still ready to show up for trivial recognition for bad work, and he cannot even pronounce the word "poem" correctly, much less write one. But I do not blame Mailer altogether, because the audience was a large part of the fraudulence—and, come to think of it, so was Queens College.

Perhaps even more remarkably, I recently riffled through a library shelf of fiction by Gore Vidal and failed to find one creative or powerfully placed word in thousands of pages of droning. To ask why Gore Vidal writes...

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