Heights Neighbor Norman Mailer Dies


New York Times: Norman Mailer, the combative, controversial and often outspoken novelist who loomed over American letters longer and larger than any writer of his generation, died today at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. He was 84. The cause was renal failure , said J. Michael Lennon, his literary executor. Mr. Mailer burst on the scene in 1948 with “The Naked and the Dead,” a partly autobiographical novel about World War II, and for the next six decades he was rarely far from the center stage. He published more than 30 books, including novels, biographies and works of nonfiction, and twice won the Pulitzer Prize: for “The Armies of the Night” (1968), which also won the National Book Award, and “The Executioner’s Song” (1979).

USA Today: His Brooklyn Heights town house offered a dazzling view of the Manhattan skyline. He preferred the view in 1961, when he moved in, when the spires of skyscrapers reminded him of the "needles of the Alps." Those buildings are now dwarfed by new, boxy structures he dismissed as "huge Kleenex boxes" standing on end.

Staring across the East River, in an 1997 interview with USA TODAY, he said, "Once there were robber barons over there. Now they're just corporate suits. On balance, I'd prefer the robber barons. At least they were interesting."

Mailer was short and handsomely craggy, with a bulldog chest. His curly hair had gone snow white. He ended up relying on a hearing aid and two canes, and lamented, "If I walk 200 yards a day, I feel heroic."

While he spent most of his final years in Provincetown, Norman Mailer made Brooklyn Heights his home for the better part of his life. We've heard stories of Mailer sightings in the neighborhood, including Mrs. Fink's own encounter with the cantankerous author at Tenda earlier this year. Anyone else have Mailer stories?

Photo: Mailer runs for Mayor of New York 1969, New York Times

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  • Beavis

    I have had two Mailer encounters/sightings:

    1) Walking on Columbia Heights, I passed Mailer on the sidewalk and gave him a smile. He scowled at me.

    2) On Montague Street back in the early 90’s I saw him reading the front page of the NYT out of the vending machine box.

  • http://selfabsorbedboomer.blogspot.com Claude Scales

    In the late summer of 1994 I was pushing my daughter, Liz, then not quite a year old, in her stroller along the Promenade. I saw a strikingly pretty woman pushing an old man in a wheelchair toward us. As they got close, I recognized the man as Mailer (I think he had suffered some sort of injury or perhaps had surgery that put him in the wheelchair for a time) and guessed the woman must be his wife. Both Mailer and the woman smiled at Liz as we passed.

  • MadeInBrooklyn

    rest in peace, neighbor.

  • http://selfabsorbedboomer.blogspot.com Claude Scales

    I’ve posted this before, but it bears repeating now.

    My regular in the Village, where I lived before moving to the Heights, was the Lion’s Head. Mailer would occasionally take the waters there, though I never met him. Above the urinal in the men’s room (OK, where else would a urinal be?) was the following graffito:

    God made Shakespeare, then broke the mold.
    God broke the mold, then made Jacqueline Susann.
    MAILER will advise God what molds he’s trying on.

  • Mike

    Occasionally, I saw him out jogging. That was a while ago.

    I think he was born with that scowl. Norman thought of himself as a pug.


  • http://adsformyself.blogspot.com Tim N.

    Not too long after we, too, moved here from the Village, my pregnant wife woke up around seven on a Sunday morning famished. So I threw on some scurffy clothes and went out to get us some bagels (this was when the bagel place on Clark across from the subway was still open). I get outside and look up Clark and I see what looks like a homeless guy, older, wild hair, scruffy chinos, making his way up the block with a very pronounced limp. I’m thinking it’s some guy who woke up on a bench and is just making his way, until I get about half a block behind the guy and I realize “holy s***, that’s Mailer!” So now I’m getting closer and closer up behind him and I”m thinking jees, what do I do when I pass him? I mean, reading Advertisements for Myself changed my life as a writer… so what do I do? I gotta do something, but the wrong thing would just ignite that famous temper.

    So I give him a wide berth as I pass, then I turn a little to the right and say, “Good morning, Mr. Mailer.” And he looks up at me like Popeye, regards me for a second, then says, in that great inimitable voice, “HOWAAREYA??!” I just said, “Fine, sir” and we nodded and went on our ways.

    I came home thinking I live in the coolest neighborhood in the world.

    I echo MadeinBrooklyn… rest in peace, neighbor.

  • cs

    Saw him a bunch of times but 2 stick out:
    Once he was in Teresa’s trying to zip up his coat. His zipper was stuck and he proceeded to curse at it saying “sh$t” quite a few times.

    Saw him in the early 90’s hanging around the set of “Age of Innocence” when it was filming on Remson Street and Hicks. I presume he was there to get a peek at Ms. Pfeifer.

    Also saw him lots of times reading papers thru the vending boxes…..

  • nabeguy

    I used to think of him as more of bantam rooster than anything else, with his cocky waddle and quick temper. My father was a drinking buddy of his at the Head, along with Oppenheimer and Schiffman and the rest of the crew. He always drank the most and talked the loudest.