The death of Norman Mailer was announced in the newspapers today--- "I thought he was dead a long time ago," a woman was saying this afternoon--- brought to mind a conversation I had with Nina Berberova--- you remember her I trust for her short novels and her magisterial memoir, THE ITALICS ARE MINE,--- a few years before she died. We were talking about well known writers and less known writers and how so much of American literary life is based upon the manipulation of the machinery of publicity. "In Russian," I remember Berberova saying, "we always make the distinction between a history of publicity and the history of literature. We make an absolute distinction between publicists and writers. On one hand you have people like Yevtushenko and certainly Mayakovsky and others I can't be bothered to mention who belong to a history of publicity and on the other hand there are those such as Mandelstam, Khodasevich, Nabokov and Akhmatova who of course belong to the history of literature."
Obviously, Norman Mailer is now a mere mention in a history of publicity as is the recently dead Susan Sontag. I am sure the obituary writers are fine tuning their obits for Tom Wolfe who is part and parcel of that world and come to think of it: isn't it about time that he passed beyond?--- or maybe he is already dead... as surely as are the guys who wrote THE WHITE HOTEL and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP
Peter Dimock is a writer. Dimock has also been an editor at Knopf and is currently an executive editor at Columbia University Press. Dimock is a writer who wrote one of the very few books to bear re-reading that came out of the experience of the Vietnam War: A SHORT RHETORIC FOR LEAVING THE FAMILY. I mention this because his book gives authority to the warning that he sent me after reading a few of my previous blogs, "It's good to hear your voice in this possible non-air of literature. I hope you don't give in to the temptations of being swept away by this virtual world unless you are sure that's what you want--- how to gauge such a calculation or choice (if it is one), I have no idea. There is probably no reliable language for such a decision."
I have no immediate answer if indeed an answer is possible or needed. I am aware that I began doing this sort of writing within the moment of my own recognition that something was done with... and maybe it has been done with for many years and only now am I getting around to knowing this. I am aware that I can not live beyond my immediate moment.
Read A SHORT RHETORIC FOR LEAVING THE FAMILY by Peter Dimock, published 1998 by Dalkey Archive; probably not available at your local bookstore... but I am sure you can get it from Amazon.