As legendary American writer Norman Mailer prepares to launch his new novel, an old ghost is returning to haunt him — the wife he stabbed four decades ago. Now it's payback
time for ADELE MAILER. Words: Kathleen Morgan
WHEN AMERICAN WRITER Norman Mailer stabbed his second wife with a pen- knife at a party in l()6(). he could not have guessed she would wait almost 40 years for payback time.
Adele Mailer knows the pen is mightier than the sword. At 72. she is publishing her autobiography. The Last Party. a powerful account of her eleven-year marriage to a man hell-bent on becoming the enfrmt terrible of American literature. The timing could not be better. It comes just weeks before Norman Mailer's latest novel The Gospel According To The Son is launched in the lfK.
Adele believes she isjustified in publishing her story now that their two daughters are adults. So far Mailer has refused to comment on his ex-wife's book.
‘lle wants to draw as little attention to it as possible.‘ says Adele. an attractive. well- preserved woman with the voice of someone's great aunt. ‘I don‘t expect any law suit from him because it‘s all true.‘
The Last Party is a well-written. absorbing tale of life with one of America‘s most admired and notorious writers. It charts a tumultuous relationship between a passionate couple gradually consumed by a heady mix of alcoholism and egotism.
Adele was an aspiring artist when she met Norman Mailer at a mutual friend‘s flat. Mailer was already famous for his critically acclaimed first novel The Nukerl Am! The Dead. and had just left his first wife — there were to be five others.
He had asked Adele over the telephone to meet him at their friend‘s (ireenwich Village flat in New York. She refused until Mailer began reciting F. Scott Fitzgerald and offered to pay her taxi fare. It was lust at first sight and the affair was kick—started on the friends sofa that night.
Adele Mailer: 'If I had to do it ail again, I would just delete the stabbing'
Adele rated Mailer intellectually and physically — he towered over a previous boyfriend. the young Jack Kerouac. of whom Adele writes: ‘Sex was not his major thrust in more ways than one.‘ Although there were relationships after the divorce in l962. no one came close to replacing Mailer.
The Mailers‘ relationship began as one big adventure — the wild literary parties in New York studio flats. the alcohol and drugs. the threesomes. Then. after marriage to Adele in
’He was proving he was a man, each affair adding another inch to his cock}
1964 and the birth of two daughters. Mailer began a compulsive string of infidelities. becoming increasingly aggressive towards his wife. Adele’s dream of being on the arm of a great American writer quickly became a night- mare.
‘lt's the whole Don Juan thing.‘ she says. ‘He used his penis as a sword. What more can I say‘." ()f Mailer‘s affairs. she comments: ‘l-le was proving he was a man. each one adding another inch to his cock.‘
Then came the party in November l96(). thrown to celebrate Mailer‘s hapless attempt at becoming mayor of New York. Fuclled by drink. he stabbed Adele. narrowly missing her heart. She was on the critical list in intensive care for three weeks. He was arrested and later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic with suicidal and violent tendencies.
When Mailer was well enough to stand trial. Adele refused to give evidence against him. She defends her inaction. claiming she was too ill and scared to face divorce and bringing up two children alone. She stuck her marriage for another nine months before leaving with her daughters.
Adele claims Mailer has never acknowledged his guilt. although he did apologise at their daughter‘s wedding for ‘trashing’ her life. ‘He has chosen to block it out.‘ says Adele. ‘I think almost the way 0.]. [Simpson] does it. Norman went on getting on with his life. getting one wife after another and one child after another.‘
As Mailer prepares to launch his new novel. Adele lives in hope of some movie director putting her story on the big screen. She complains of being hard up — she lives in a tenement flat in New York‘s leper liast Side — and dreams of moving back to "The Village‘.
ller feelings for Mailer swing from bitterness to a nostalgic yearning for her lost lover. She says if history were to repeat itself. she would fall for him again: ‘()h. (iod. he was so charming and handsome — just much more human.‘
She adds: ‘lfl had to do it all again. I would
just delete the stabbing.‘
But then. there would be no book.
The Last Party: Scenes From My Life With Norman Mailer by Adele Mailer is published by Blake at £16.99.
29 Aug 11 Sept 1997 THE “ST 17