When answering the question “Can bad people be great writers?” there is perhaps no better subject to consider than Norman Mailer, whose first novel The Naked and the Dead was published on this day 66 years ago. During his life, Mailer published more than 30 books, won two Pulitzer Prizes and a National Book Award, and found his place in the cannon as one of America’s great authors. However, none of these feats negate the fact that Mailer was, indeed, a terrible person. Sure, you could say there is a grey area for everything in life and write his behavior off as a particularly sable shade of grey — or you could decide that there is zero reason to ever stab your wife, as Mailer did to Adele Morales (wife number two of six) in 1960.
We’re going to go with the latter option, and it’s that reason that we don’t want to quite “celebrate” the 66th anniversary of The Naked and the Dead, but we absolutely do want to acknowledge it. The quotes below exhibit what kind of person Mailer was — offensive, rude and judgmental. They run the gambit from mildly irksome to making you never want to read Mailer again. Enjoy!
Mailer on Homosexuality:
"... if one feels no shame about being a homosexual, it's considerably easier to be a homosexual than a heterosexual. Because you are separated from society, the weight of society bears upon you far less, and promiscuity is far simpler." — Conversations with Norman Mailer
"Every man is vulnerable to homosexuality because he cannot have it with a woman. He must go to a man to fundamentally feel like a woman — to wit, he must go to a man to have something up his anus or in his mouth." (After Mailer shared this sentiment, someone in the audience shouted, “Up your anus!,” which is perhaps not the most intelligent response, but does get the point across.) — Town Bloody Hall
"With women, the difficulty is that any man who's really a superb lover can be about 90 percent as good to a woman as a lesbian, just doing the things that a lesbian does and then he’s got all the other stuff. So the result is that lesbians do have a tough time …." — Town Bloody Hall
Mailer to Literary Critic and Author Diana Trilling:
“And how about you, smart cunt.” — Norman Mailer: A Double Life
Mailer on Women’s Liberation:
"I don't think that women have done much in developing their ideas. Can you tell me some new ones that have come out of women's liberation in the last decade or so? What are they saying now that they weren’t saying fifteen years ago? What astonishing new theses has Ms. magazine come up with lately?" — Conversations with Norman Mailer
Mailer on Women Writers:
“I have a terrible confession to make—I have nothing to say about any of the talented women who write today. Out of what is no doubt a fault in me, I do not seem able to read them. Indeed I doubt if there will be a really exciting woman writer until the first whore becomes a call girl and tells her tale. At the risk of making a dozen devoted enemies for life, I can only say that the sniffs I get from the ink of the women are always fey, old-hat, Quaintsy Goysy, tiny, too dykily psychotic, crippled, creepish, fashionable, frigid, outer-Baroque, maquillé in mannequin’s whimsy, or else bright and stillborn. Since I’ve never been able to read Virginia Woolf, and am sometimes willing to believe that it can conceivably be my fault, this verdict may be taken fairly as the twisted tongue of a soured taste, at least by those readers who do not share with me the ground of departure—that a good novelist can do without everything but the remnant of his balls.” — Advertisements for Myself
Mailer on Arabs:
"The Arabs have had two thousand years of living in the desert, fighting over nothing very tangible, until oil wells came along recently. They have learned to negotiate and trick and play and maneuver and distort realities in such a way that we are encountering a mind, geopolitically speaking, that is more evil than any mind we have encountered before." — Esquire
Mailer on Stabbing His Wife:
"We all know that I stabbed my wife many years ago. We all know that." — The Dick Cavett Show
Mailer on Why He Wouldn’t Hit Gore Vidal, Dick Cavett or Janet Flanner:
"I guarantee you I wouldn't hit any of the people here because they are smaller … intellectually smaller." — The Dick Cavett Show
Mailer on Rape:
“A little bit of rape is good for a man’s soul.” — Norman Mailer: A Double Life
Mailer on His Nether Regions:
Refers to his penis as the “Retaliator.” — The Prisoner of Sex
Did we miss your favorite Norman-Mailer-was-a-raging-asshole quote? Or perhaps you’d like to defend Mailer? Let us know in the comments below.