that Mister Norman Mailer will be the next Mister Ernest Hemingway in about ten minutes. Considered to be a blowhard without texture. Unfashionable. But still he has picked up a copy of ‘Harlot’s Ghost’ and nominated it as his beach novel for this summer. It is heavy (in weight) and still good (in memory). It is also of the East, featuring parts of New England Mister Chu can, momentarily, feel akin to.
Many of Mailer’s papers (an analogue concept at this point perhaps) are now at The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin, along with others they’ve also collected (DFW is also already there, so soon after his leaving). But it is here, not in Manila or Vietnam, that Mister Chu is going to imagine this Brooklyn boy over the next month or two.
Mailer had wives called Beatrice, Adele, Jeanne, Beverly, Carol and Norris.
His main character’s (Harry Hubbard) wife in ‘Harlot’s Ghost’ is a wonderful cypher, Kittredge, a woman who Mister Chu -for heartbreak- has long nursed inside as a prototype perfect friend of the girl type.
When he first read the book (first met her) and was confused by American women, seeing them as a type unto themselves, he remembered this account of social prejudice:
Ann Again’s Wake
I’ve spent the last two hours working on a picture
called ‘Ann Again’s Wake’
which is of a woman bursting through the mouth of a shark
which is itself biting through your newspaper
as you sit expecting breakfast.
This picture is a story about the Hamptons
and a woman ignored,
who amongst her circle of acquaintances
had become like the girl in Class 5 who always reeked of piss.
”Here comes Ann again,” they’d whisper
as she tried to become a part.
But on this day, disappeared off the point at Montauk
presumed drowned or eaten
every man reading his Times or Journal
imagines Ann in robes flowing
like the Piano woman come to Amagansett
dancing as if from their own daily-tempted mouths
and so entirely at odds with the browned shrikes
who sit now without make-up, aging across the table.
The women themselves
and only dimly understanding
find this transition impossible to fathom
and therefore comes ‘Ann Again’s Wake’
much missed and beloved sister to the mysterious “Finnegan Again,”
which for one or two summers
(when they were younger and closer to college)
was what the women would always say to each other
in resignation, as they pulled out Joyce’s book
and attempted to turn it into a beach novel.
Mister Chu did paint this picture of the woman and the shark, but it is lost to him now. Left behind when he left a house he had previously lived in. Perhaps he will paint it again.