Ramírez Márquez Recalls Norman Mailer

December 3, 2007 | Borough of Manhattan Community College

In 1994, Associate Professor Alister Ramírez Márquez of the Department of Modern Languages interviewed Norman Mailer (Jan 31, 1923- Nov 10, 2007), the combative and controversial American writer of the 20th century. This conversation with Mr. Mailer was published in Spanish in El Tiempo, the most widely read newspaper of Colombia, and was included in a book by Ramírez Márquez called “Interviews with 11 U.S. Fiction Writers” (Editorial Planeta). Professor Ramirez also interviewed writers for his book such as Russell Banks, Harold Bloom, Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike, among others.

The Incomprehensible Mailer
“I had the privilege and the honor of interviewing Mr, Mailer when he was 72 years old. At that stage of his life he became sentimental, and I had the impression that I was talking to a grandfather with a lot of wisdom. It was incomprehensible for me to see that the same gentleman that I had in front of me was the same man who decades ago stabbed his second wife Adele Morales and participated in those wild famous parties in the 1960’s with New York intellectual scene. However, the man that I interviewed was the father of eight children, the man who married six times, who had to write books and articles in a rush to keep up with numerous alimony payments.”

Mr. Mailer published more than 30 books, including novels, biographies and works of nonfiction. He won the Pulitzer Prize twice, one for “The Armies of the Night” (1968), which also won the National Book Award, and also for “The Executioner’s Song” (1979). He helped to found The Village Voice, and he campaigned for mayor of New York City in 1969.

The Mellow Mailer
“We talked about his favorite subjects: war, politics, Hollywood stars, boxing, and of course his children and grandchildren”. When in the beginning of the interview his last wife Norris Church came to say hello, and asked us if we needed something else, Mr. Mailer hugged her, and with his blue eyes and a warm smile said that everything was fine. It was an unforgettable meeting at his apartment in Brooklyn.”