My Archival Wanderings: a Norman Mailer letter

Publish date:

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,


New Agent Alert: Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.


Timothy Miller: The Alluring Puzzle of Fact and Fiction

Screenwriter and novelist Timothy Miller explains how he came to write historical fiction and how research can help him drive his plot.


Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido: Entertainment and Outrage

Authors Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido explain how they came to co-write their novel and why it's important to them that the readers experience outrage while reading.


Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!


20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.


Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.