Mailer the Writer/Mailer the Opportunity?

“Dwayne Raymond, a young writer who was waiting table at a restaurant in Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, where Mailer spent most of his final years.”

Since Mornings With Mailer (Harper Perennial) is about Raymond’s time as Norman Mailer’s assistant, leading up to the writers death in 2007, was I skeptical even before I crack open the book?


I could argue that being an even semi-successful writer comes down to luck, and the ability to seize an opportunity. What you do with those things is up to you. In Raymond’s case, he decided to write about an experience that was just a stroke of luck: meeting, and later befriending Mailer, all because he waited on his table. That is chance, not skill. ”

I’m going to fault him for that?

I could, and to be honest, I did, prior to reading through Mornings With Mailer.  In this age of tell-all books about affairs with politicians, and Going Rogue, it’s incredibly easy to hate on just about any book with the word “memoir” attached to it.  But then I asked myself, “who the hell thinks they are going to make a milli writing about hanging out with old Norman Mailer?”

I seriously doubt Raymond does and once I got over that initial skepticism, I read Mornings With Mailer, finding it quite enjoyable.  There is hardly any scandal in the book, and really nothing that “juicy”.  What you get is a picture of a literary giant in his golden years, and his bond with a younger practitioner of his craft.

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  1. Thanks for giving the book a chance and not allowing the skepticism you first carted into the read of it take over. I tried to be forthright about the friendship that developed between Norman and me and, in the process, tell a fine story about family. Yes, family has many different facets, and the relationship I had with Norman and his extended one, which later included me, was no less valid than any other. I would argue even that the bond that developed between us was equally as strong, if not stronger, than the many relations of father and son that occur “normally” in this often fractured country.

    “Old Norman” was never really old, not in the sense that one might easily assume. He was youthful in the grandest sense because he was always, always learning and expanding his mind–and I gobbled that exquisite faction of his nature right up, because I want to go out the same way: always enlarging my mind in the face of the sure-fire wall of harrowing age. He taught me that and it was a graceful, generous lesson.

    I’m happy you enjoyed my book, in the end. But one small criticism if I may? My name is Dwayne Raymond. Not Redmond. Thanks so much.

    Cheers and best,

  2. I have to say: I was suprised how much I loved this book. I picked it up in B and N, and got so caught up reading it that I bought it,went home and sat on the couch reading it till the wee hours.
    I’m sorry the reflexive snark of the writer, above, did such a disservice to what is actually a fascinating book. Norris Church Mailer’s triumph is that she has managed to express a voice we don’t hear from very often:the real voice of a woman from small town America, who grew up in one of the most socially confusing times to be a woman, ever. Born in the 50’s in Arkansas (!), where one was supposed to be pretty and and demure; and then the 60’s and 70’s, where suddenly everything we knew about being female was…wrong. Church Mailer’s voice is frank, funny,and a bit plaintive about what it was like to negotiate those times, both public and private.
    And what is all this “old Mailer” stuff? Sheesh. Go home, write “Naked and the Dead”, and THEN get back to me, kid.