“A novelist is supposed to be an individual alone in a room. But Mailer seemed to be everywhere, writing everything – novels, poems, plays, stories, essays, journalism, movies and advertisements for himself.” – Don DeLillo
The idea of creating a resource for writers that would celebrate an omnivore’s approach to writing was seeded in the mind of Co-Founder Lawrence Schiller towards the end of Norman Mailer’s life in 2007. Schiller, who collaborated with Mailer for more than 30 years, was moved by a desire to preserve both Mailer’s legacy of generosity to younger writers, as well as the important role that Provincetown, MA—and in the earlier years, Brooklyn, NY—played in the development of Mailer’s work.
Mailer understood the importance of the written word and devoted his life to it. He attended writer’s conferences, met with young writers, and encouraged them to be the best writers they could be, as Gay Talese remembers below. “Let us never assume,” Mailer said, “there is not more and more, and more and more, and then more to write about.” The Center is committed to a vision of its work as wide and as varied as Mailer’s vision as a writer.
Read the statements of the Center’s Co-Founders, Lawrence Schiller and Norris Church Mailer, to hear about the organization’s very beginnings.
“Among the many enduring qualities that made Mailer special and memorable, in my opinion, was his availability, his approachability, to multitudes of people who were in no position to return any favors he might extend to them. I have never known a writer—and I have known hundreds of writers during my half-century of living in New York and traveling extensively—who was easier to talk to, easier to contact, and more willing to waste his time with ordinary people who specialized in wasting other people’s time than Norman Mailer.
“He was not pragmatic. He was not protecting himself from people. He was never selective. So often important writers (or celebrities of any kind) are selectively available, selectively friendly—they’re friendly with people who are potentially of some use to them in the present or future—i.e., they’ll court the company of journalists who might write about them, or they’ll cultivate wealthy people or powerful people or those with influence in politics, society, or the academic world.
“I don’t think Mailer made such distinctions; he would talk to anyone, be available to anybody, would answer mail sent by the anybodys of his lifetime (I’m told he wrote some 50,000 letters) …Truman Capote was fond of saying that ‘no good deed goes unpunished,’ and this could be applied to Mailer, except Mailer didn’t care. He was above such thinking. I’ve known Capote pretty well and also Styron, Updike, most of them … And none of these writers could approach Mailer insofar as being generous with their time, and helpful to people who offered nothing in return but thanks (and not always that!); yes, Mailer was easy to be had. With all his boxing talk, his guard was never up. He could be reached. I loved him for that. He was a strong-willed man. And a soft touch as well.” -- Gay Talese, 2009