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My Archival Wanderings: a Norman Mailer letter

Categories: Writer's Digest news.
Hi Writers,
Thanks very much to all who are supporting me in my quest to get the WD archives digitized. It’s starting to gain some momentum here, so please spread the word to your fellow writers and keep the good karma coming.

Today, I’m pulling out old magazines for an AP photographer to accompany the story I mentioned in my previous entry. Well, I was having quite the blast when I got ever so rudely kicked out of our company library for a meeting. The nerve.

Anyway, for your reading enjoyment, I found this hilarious letter Norman Mailer wrote to the editor in our March 1970 issue:

Dear Editor,
Regarding the interview you printed with me in the December issue done by Oriana Fallaci—Miss Fallaci is a talented journalist with a gift for making people talk more than they care to talk as she runs them through an interview. Her English however is uncertain, so uncertain that she uses a tape recorder, not as she confesses for the record but because she cannot understand exactly what you say. The use of a tape recorder is probably excusable, especially by a foreign journalist, but what is not altogether forgivable is that Miss Fallaci has the habit of rewriting the transcription with a freedom matched only by her ability to spurn the word you did use.

Since she was writing for an Italian audience, she took pains to convert my answers into Italian, which is to say that she rephrased my dialogue in such a way that it would make sense to Italian readers. The result, now translated back into English from the free translation into Italian, is a first-rate piece of surrealism. Nearly all the ideas I expressed to her find some place in her work, but it has become her work. It may even read like Oriana Fallaci interviewing Oriana Fallaci. My words, my style, my very clumsiness of speech—which any friend can testify to—have been converted into the spoiled and petulant tones of an Italian intellectual loved somewhat too much by his mother and I protest, fellas, I protest. Whatever my vices—they are many—I am not quite so bright an ass as Miss Fallaci would have me.

Norman Mailer
Provincetown, Mass.

Ahh, rest in peace, Norman. You were a spirited one.

Keep Writing,

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4 Responses to My Archival Wanderings: a Norman Mailer letter

  1. Jordan says:

    Oh what a fantastic letter–the tone, his own intellectual outrage, and the wonderful little mini-picture he paints of Oriana Fallaci. This is great stuff Maria!


  2. Steve Davis says:

    These examples alone show that the archival material digitized would be so interesting and so useful to put writing over the years in perspective.

    More, more….


  3. Lori says:

    God, you gotta love him! He could put you in your place while being so self-deprecating – that’s talent!

    I see you’re having fun, Maria. :))

  4. Giovanna says:

    The letter is hilarious, you are right. But now i’m curious, I read that interview years ago, I think it’s time to read it again.
    Thank you for posting that letter.

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