Sunday, December 3, 2017
More On Mailer’s The Prisoner Of Sex
As I recall, "wordy" had been a Mailer characteristic since about the late 50's (long, elaborate sentences with a lot of adjectives, i.e).
So was "roundabout", which he'd developed as a coy defensive tactic, a way of hedging, hinting, not quite saying what you think he's saying.
From time to time he'll call this "dialectical", though I never thought he meant much by that -- it was really just a way of being able to take provocative stances without being pinned down by them.
And "self-obsessed" -- well, sure, that's Mailer, from the beginning, and overtly so, obviously, since "Advertisements for Myself".
I think maybe the oddness stems from some earlier obsessions with viscera, bowels, and smells, which he'd developed in a confused search for some Big Idea that would identify him (previously that had been Time), but it does get at some notion of bodily essence that's probably relevant to his theme here.
Finally, though, what makes it "not not engaging", to my mind at least, is that this is Mailer at the period where he encapsulates himself as his own protagonist, the Mailer-persona, part clown, part Aging Man of Letters, whose antics, verbal and physical, both amuse and, occasionally, stimulate. Or at least they did me, once upon a time. Don probably had a more appropriate response.
Thanks L. I’ll keep on with it. At least for a while.
But even in the first part, The Prizewinner, he talks about:
...a colloquy between the liver’s passions and the justified claims of the spleen, the spirituality of the lungs in conflict with the wage demands of the muscles, all subjected at last to the logic of intestinal morality....
And I’m thinking wtf is he talking about? Is he serious? Is he just putting us on? And now given your good comment, I’m thinking, “Does he think he’s saying something meaningful but he wants it both ways by suggesting too that he’s just farting around because he probably knows it’s fanciful bullshit?”
There’s a part in the first part where he’s courting the support of Bella Abzug and her group in his run for mayor. And she’s so plain spoken, like “Your ideas on women stink,” with her quintessential New York City bluntness. And I really appreciated that compared to his roundabout, at times obscure, long winded loquaciousness.