A Literary Legend Goes a Few Rounds With His Son


Norman Mailer’s done a few productive things since co-founding the Voice 50 years ago. A true man of letters if 20th-century America has produced one, Mailer’s published fiction, biographies, and political musings, including a short stint blogging for the Huffington Post. And now, The Big Empty, a collection of conversations with his son John Buffalo Mailer on such weighty topics as God, women, war, and boxing. John Buffalo serves as meek moderator to a panel of one for more than half the book, but in this live conversation, he’ll get a chance to go toe-to-toe with Dad on these subjects as writer Dotson Rader referees. Norman’s lost none of his appetite for bons mots in his later years; if anything, he’s grown more succinct, as in this recent assessment of George W.: “He turned out to be as vain as sin, and as hollow as unsuccessful sin.” Both unapologetic lefties with remarkable grasps on their generations’ proclivities, if not each other’s, father and son have a relationship best apprehended with this exchange from The Big Empty: John Buffalo: “I’m content to question, listen, and on occasion, interject a thought or two.” Norman: “Ah, go fuck yourself.”

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