Norman Mailer certainly wasn’t looking to make any friends in his first column for The Village Voice.
That many of you are frustrated in your ambitions, and undernourished in your pleasures, only makes me more venomous. Quite rightly. If I ever found myself in your position, I would not be charitable either. Nevertheless, given your general animus to those more talented than yourselves, the only way I see myself becoming one of the cherished traditions of the Village is to be actively disliked each week.
And most readers didn’t take too kindly to his I’d-hate-me-if-I-were-you-too shtick either. They said so in letters to the Voice.
Phyllis Lynd of West 87th Street wrote:
This guy Mailer. He’s a hostile, narcissistic pest. Lose him. He reminds me of a character who moves into a nice neighborhood and can’t stand the warmth and harmony, so he does all in his power to disrupt it. You have such a nice paper. Don’t spoil it. The only thing Mailer has to communicate is his own self glorification.
Lu Burke, of Bleecker Street, wrote:
Lookit that self-conscious Norman Mailer. He begins by patronizing his readers (would-be’s and failures and Bohemians, he calls us) and indicates that his having to write a column bores him. And he ends by telling us that we probably won’t understand him but he is going to give the things a manful try anyway.
What is all this whining that communication is so difficult because you have to address whole lots of people in society and not just some old pal in your living room who patiently put up with your obscenity and your inarticulate gasps about the profundity and sensuality of life?
Mr. Mailer feels the cause of his difficulty in communicating his thoughts lies in society. ‘Social communication,’ he says, ‘is the doom of every truly felt thought.’
Society, Mr. Mailer, is people, and in this country most of us speak English, and I venture to say that most of us have much the same sort of feelings and some of same sort of thoughts that you do. I venture to say that we can understand you, if you make yourself plain. If we don’t it is still a question in my mind whether that is our fault or yours.