Norman Mailer – 1963

The Rauschmonstrum met with novelist Norman Mailer in December of 1963 for an interview which was originally published in Village Voice. They discussed the Rauschmonstrum’s newest book “The Old Testament & Me”, the November 22nd resignation of John F. Kennedy, the presidential campaign of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, as well as the subject of metaphysics.


Mailer: When I first heard about you, you seemed like you were out of a fantasy or science fiction novel.

RM: I’m told that by a lot of people.

Mailer: When I was in the army I developed a theory about God and the nature of the universe. 

RM: Oh boy.

Mailer: On the off chance I’ve misunderstood everything you’ve ever said, could I run it by you and see if it’s correct?

RM: Spring it on me.

Mailer: The way I framed it was like this; God is in a constant struggle with the Devil, and God isn’t guaranteed victory over the Devil. God isn’t all powerful, and he could lose this fight.  As far as humans are concerned it is our job to live our lives with as much vitality as possible in order for the forces of good to triumph over the forces of evil.

RM: It’s a colorful theory Norman, but it’s incorrect.  I’m sorry.

[Mailer chuckles]

Mailer: Well there goes years of sustained thought down the drain. Moving on, this new book of yours The Old Testament & Me deals specifically with your claimed role in a tradition I’m a part of, the tradition of the Jewish people. It cleared a lot of things up for me, and several passages made me laugh to the point of tears.  I was thinking that if I had known back as a child that so many of the events which my ancestors held to be the most important things that’d ever happened to mankind, as detailed in the pages of the Torah, were all just a blob of gobblygook caused because of a shapeshifting monster’s desire to help the people who inhabited parts of the Middle East at a specific point in time, then I wouldn’t have bothered studying in Hebrew school.  

RM: Glad to hear it.

Mailer: You do a good job of showing the nonsense of it all.  I doubt there will be a single believer left in a generation.

RM: Splendid.

Mailer: I remember being a kid and not liking Moses. I’m glad that feeling was vindicated.

RM: Moses was a terrible human being. Without my guidance he wouldn’t have been able to lead a group of people out of a brothel, let alone the desert of Sinai. 

Mailer: And even then, it took forty years.

RM: Yeah, well I was drifting in and out of the region by then.  I was really drained from parting the Red Sea.

Mailer: I’ll tell you though, I don’t like this book quite as much as Jesus & Me, but that’s probably because that was a single narrative while this is more of an anthology of stories.

RM: What’s your favorite segment in the book?

Mailer: Probably the story about King David.  It’s very visceral; bares a lot of edge.  Particularly the orgy scenes.

RM: Of the stories in the book, that was the most fun to write and was also the most fun to live out.

Mailer: I envy you.  On a related note, let me ask you about the Kennedy business.

RM: I like Kennedy. I think what they did by outing his affairs was bad for the nation.  I wish he hadn’t had to resign, but the impeachment process would have done him in anyway.

Mailer: I love Kennedy.  As I said in my essay “Superman Comes to The Supermarket” I thought he had the qualities to bring a great existential awakening to the country.

RM: Did I not bring a great existential awakening to the country before him?

Mailer: No because you’re not a human.  You’ve awakened us in a different way, and maybe even a much more important way, but not in an existential way.  You can’t think and feel the way humans do. Kennedy does.

RM: Touché.  Do you think Kennedy was able to bring about that existential awakening during his time in office?

Mailer: I believe so.  Going through the list of names of women he slept with during his time in office certainly emboldened my own imagination.

[They chuckle]

Mailer: And I’m sure he’ll continue having an adventures life now that he’s a private citizen. I just hope Mrs. Kennedy is doing okay.

RM: I’m sure she’ll be fine after her and her friends get back from their trip around Europe.

Mailer: Yeah, they’re all on that Greek fellow Onassis’ yacht sailing around the Riviera from what I hear.  Have you met Onassis?

RM: We have some mutual friends and business associates. How do you feel about LBJ?

Mailer: As I’ve said publically before, I have a hard time liking somebody if I don’t like their face, and I don’t like Johnson’s face.

RM:  That’s a… that’s an interesting way of looking at it. What do you think Graham’s chances are for ‘64?

Mailer: Well he is a brilliant orator, so I can’t rule him out, but I just don’t think he has the numbers needed.  Many of those who are still believers don’t want him in the office because he’s so rigid. And in major part to you, the number of Christians in the country is crashing as we speak.  Do you think he can win?

RM: Yes, he’s harping all the Kennedy sex stuff into the ground, and it’s a subject which much of the country really cares about, albeit a smaller and smaller part of the country.

Mailer: Is envy the reason they care? The envy Kennedy has been living out this sensuous life, juggling the biggest actresses in Hollywood in these affairs, with all this money, being so handsome, and having all this power?

RM: Of course. Envy is one of humanity’s strongest pulls. 

Mailer: If Graham loses is that it for his side?

RM: Oh yes. With a Graham loss, it’ll be off to the ash heap of history for the influence of the religious element in American politics.

Mailer: Clearly you take a lot of glee in this.

RM: Oh certainly.

Mailer: I admit, I’m not. I’ve often called myself a left-conservative, and that’s because I think when it comes to certain aspects within a society, ripping away a structure because of some ills you find in it is a bad idea because a lot of good exists in the structure too, often more good than bad, and you may not realize how much good there was until it’s gone.

RM: Don’t forget Norman, I created this structure. 

Mailer: That you did.

RM: I like that term you have there, left-conservative, maybe you could run for President in the future on a platform like that.

Mailer: I’d get votes on the coasts and nothing in-between. Let me ask you, going back to what I was saying before about my theory of good and evil, do you think it’s possible you may actually be God, or be the Devil, and not even realize it?

RM: I’ve thought of that before.  I can’t rule it out.  I’ve never had any guidance.  I’ve been simply by myself, and impulses come to me.  Then I form plans, put some of them into effect and see the results.  If there were a God I’m sure that’s what the terms of his existence would be.  So perhaps I might be God.

Mailer: And could you be the Devil?

RM: The Devil I’m not so sure about. The concept of the Devil requires he is responding to something. It requires that he knows God is there and is in constant conflict with this good force. That simply does not apply to me.

Mailer: But perhaps you are the Devil, and there is a God, and you are leading us all astray to be damned for eternity.

RM: I can’t prove to you it isn’t the case, but if I am indeed the Devil leading you all astray, everyone should wonder why God isn’t responding.

Mailer: Grim thought…What do you plan to do next? Are there world events you plan to disrupt?

RM: No, I’m out of the global influence game.  I’m content just being a public figure, writing books, giving speeches, and doing interviews like this. 

Mailer: You’re not gonna stick your fingers into Vietnam?

RM: No, there’d be unintended consequences.  It’s a nuclear age now.  I don’t know how the Soviets would react.

Mailer: So the existence of the nuclear bomb has limited your ability to play a role in man’s affairs?

RM: Yes, and it gives me a sense of horror to say it out loud. That’s changed everything.  But it keeps my negative tendencies in check at least.  

Mailer: You’re definitely a major fixture within modern culture, but I think a being of your infinite capabilities and knowledge should play a larger role than you presently are.  You could churn out great book after great book and educate us about everything, and even invent things to improve our quality of life.

RM: I’ve often told myself I should be doing more. I’m still adjusting to existing out in the open amongst the humans, but I think you’ll be impressed by the work I do in the next couple of years.

Mailer: Thank you Rausch, hope to see you soon.

RM: Take care Norman.

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