Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How to Party When You're Norman Mailer

This entry is a writing exercise from my Asilomar workshop inspired by this photo of Norman Mailer at a Poets & Writers party in 1980. Photo credit: Nancy Crampton

How to Party When You're Norman Mailer:

First wear your sweatshirt and tennis shoes. You’re comfortable in your skin. You know who you are, no need to dress to impress.

Second, prepare to dazzle the guests with a hidden talent––a hobby you’ve had since childhood for instance. Something you’ve kept up casually, encouraged by nieces and nephews, children and grandchildren who want you to show off your old tricks at family functions.

Third, grab a microphone, cordless if you can, in order to narrate, as is your bent, even this absurd display of diminishing prowess. You are a writer, after all, your body of work characterized by an unflinching look at all of life, even or especially, yours, fully fleshed out details in Technicolor.

Fourth, as you balance on the edge of adolescent delights and the precipice of obscurity—will anyone remember you or your work twenty years from now? Ten years? Tomorrow? Don’t ask those questions.––Throw yourself completely into the moment. Feel the exhilaration of the zone. You are snatched from time and space. In a millisecond you are ten and sixty-five, skinned kneed and potbellied, waiting for your twelve year molars and white haired all at the same time. That’s creativity, baby.

Lastly, tell us, the other guests at God’s gathering about the ultimate death defying party trick. Tell us how we too, can conquer time and space. Introduce us to Jesus*.

*Mailer wrote The Gospel According to the Son in 1999. He died on November 10, just days after I wrote this.

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