This past Saturday, author Norman Mailer died of kidney failure at 84 years old, which marks the first time in his career that failure succeeded in stopping him—at least physically. Mailer led an extraordinary life, having written 40-plus books of fiction (most notably his first and best known book upon coming home from WWII, The Naked and the Dead) and nonfiction (in which he won two Pulitzer Prizes), having made an impassioned run at becoming the Mayor of New York in 1969 in which he and fellow author Jimmy Breslin won 5% of the vote (with the running slogan: No More Bullshit), having done unadvisable things (like befriending killer Jack Henry Abbott), having coined terms (such as “fug” and the “white negro”) and covered major events (like the Rumble in the Jungle). He was also one of the last great voices in American literature, whose myriad influences are still alive today, including the concept of this paper that you hold in your hands. Mailer co-founded the Village Voice from a two-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village in 1955, and embodied the alt-weekly concept with not only everything that’s vital about politics and entertainment, but social and cultural behavior as well. His controversial worldview and oft-times ill-plotted antics made dissenters of everyone from Gore Vidal to Truman Capote to Kate Millet, which was fine by Mailer because he understood that life was in the dice he threw. Or, as he himself wrote in his brilliant book The Fight, “gambling has its own libido.” Well, Norman, you win some and you lose some—and this time we lost a great one.
Mailer is survived by his wife, Norris Church Mailer, and his nine children.