Monday, November 26, 2007

BTW

I don’t really read books anymore. About once a year, whenever Michael Connelly finishes a new Harry Bosch novel, I’ll read it to Sara. We’ll cringe at the single, appallingly clumsy lovemaking scene he feels he has to put in every one of his otherwise straight hardboiled detective stories: “They held each other with a passion too deep, too hungry for words.” That kind of stuff. But other than that, nice clean entertainment.

Anyways, after Lasse and Anja’s wedding, coming back to Präz from the St. Benedict chapel, I heard on the car radio that Norman Mailer had died. I made a comment about it to Lasse’s mum, and then forgot all about it. Mailer’s authorship means very little to me. In the army I read most of The Naked and the Dead, but never finished it. I’ve browsed through Harlot’s Ghost at one time, but must admit I found it boring. What else? I know he was against the Vietnam War. And I know they characterized him as a genius, a “Jewish Hemingway,” which seems like a bit of an oxymoron.

And then today I caught the ending of a documentary about him, on Swedish state television. He was so articulate, so attentive to the minutest details of his own language. At eighty-four he was still sharp as a tack. There were little things, of course, certain words and phrasings which seemed a bit too studied, too deliberate. A sense, perhaps, that he’d formulated and re-formulated these thoughts so many times they weren’t exactly fresh ideas anymore.

Still, the scale of his mental power was staggering. I like to write a sentence or two myself once in a while, so I know how hard it is. Yes, yes, I know I’m no Norman Mailer. I’m not a faultless, impeccable voice-of-my-generation literary genius. So sue me.

But then at one point, and this is just the greatest thing, the old guy picks up a marker pen and starts doodling little improvised drawings. It’s between interview takes, a little unrehearsed moment. And with no small amount of pride, he explains how some of his famous artist friends have told him he has a natural talent for drawing – because he writes longhand. So because he’s accustomed to holding the pen, and shaping the letters, drawing comes natural to him, even if he’s started a bit late. He proudly holds up the picture.

Well, let me tell you this: Norman Mailer couldn’t draw worth of shit. His doodles were pathetic and horrible in a way impossible to imitate without that special un-talent for drawing only a very few people possess. And I’m not talking about the people who can’t draw at all, I’m talking about the people who think they can draw a little. There is a special, magical place about midway on the scale from no talent to massive talent, where everything you produce is just a sad waste of good paper. And old Norman was right there, in that zone. Ha ha ha! Don’t quit your day job.

10 Comments:

Blogger suttonhoo said...

best mailer obit I've read to date.

thanks.

4:13 am  
Blogger mrtn said...

Ha ha ha!

Actually, drawing-wise, I think I'm right in that zone. But I admit that I like to think of myself as a Scandinavian Hemingway.

I wonder if Hemingway thought of himself as "the American Hemingway."

10:16 am  
Anonymous ungovernable said...

never read mailer. all i can say is daiquiri, and lots of them please

5:40 pm  
Blogger Mikkel said...

Suttonhoo: Thank you. But you have to change your profile picture soon. The Mayan stone face just isn't you anymore. Every time I see that photo I think to myself: "She must change her profile picture soon." There, I said it.

Martin: You're a Scandinavian Hemingwart.

Ungov: I once read an article about the 100 most manly men in history, and Hemingway didn't make the list - for this reason: "He drank daiquiris." Well, let me tell you this: The daiquiris Hemingway drank were WITHOUT SUGAR. OK? Try that. Then we'll talk.

12:51 am  
Blogger Mikkel said...

I'm drubkn.

12:52 am  
Anonymous ungovernable said...

we've had this discussion before and i have to say don't find him less manly because of the daiquiries, whatever manly means anyway. maybe manly as in protruding. i don't really know what sugar does to an erection, exept making it sweeter.
one of my most favourite things in the world, apart from the male inferior proboscis, is as you may know the strawberry daiquiri, white rum, frozen stravberrys and lots of syrup. yes yes. gets me all fruity. i remember you said it was alright, given the spaceship that lives in my abdomen and my fear of intimacy.

6:04 pm  
Blogger Mikkel said...

I'm having mixed feelings about this whole "sweet erections" concept, but OK.

6:52 pm  
Blogger Antagonous said...

don't listen to him suttonhoo, mikkel has profile picture issues. (and really, how long has it been since you changed yours mr. m?)

but if you do change it, I vote for mr. cheese, especially if it's the freaked out one.

7:01 pm  
Blogger Mikkel said...

HA! So you agree!

7:08 pm  
Anonymous ungovernable said...

u never got one of those japanese lollipops did you. ill mail a photo to sara

7:26 pm  

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