A sort of life

Never make your move too soon

RICHMOND, Va. — Normal Mailer’s been dead for a week or so now and I’ve yet to say my piece. I don’t know a damn thing about the guy, and I’m not about to spout off like I idolized him the way the kids did when Gonzo put one between his teeth. I’m not telling you stories.

But I am in mourning. Think what you will about Mailer — one hit washout, cult superstar, defender of civil liberties, big mouth showman — you cannot deny that he sculpted words like few others before him. And until last week he was alive. We’ve lost something grand. And I regret it like I regretted learning Graham Greene died in my lifetime. I was not even ten years-old when Greene died, but when I read a decade later that I was there (even just ?there?), I couldn’t shake the feeling that I lost something special and that I should have known better.

That’s how I feel with the Mailer passing. And know that I do not regret much in my life.

I only read one article he wrote and it was from late in his life. Critics claim that the late life was the least, how do you say, profound. It was folded into the last couple pages of the UK edition of Esquire, I think, and I can’t remember what it was called. I think this was around 2002 or 2003 and so it could have been an except from a book he was pushing for all I know.

The bit was about the coming of age of a boy. The boy lived near a beach and spent a lot of time wandering the dunes. One day he stumbled upon a couple making love on the beach. The kid — I can’t remember if he knew it was sex that he was seeing — of course sticks around to watch. The piece is really about describing those sea-monster like emotions, flesh joined together and moving about as if it (or they) came from the ocean. From the primordial soup, if you will. The concept of voyeurism, and how we shared the voyeur experience because our eyes were seeing the lovers just as clearly as the kid.

The most surprising thing, I remember, was how overtly un-sexual I felt despite the very sexual nature of the whole thing. I can’t remember morals. I can’t remember details. But I remember thinking: ?This guy’s supposed to be a legend? I’ve got naked bodies on a beach and he can’t get me off? Come on!?

Of course I was much younger then.

And so I hope Mailer and Greene rest well. And I? I’ll have to see about a bookstore.

“Never make your move too soon” is from Volume One: Frank’s Wild Years (1983–2009). Written between 2003 and 2009, Volume One was this author’s attempt to find meaning from life as a young twenty-something. While this endeavor would ultimately fail, what remains is a comical tale of loneliness and debauchery.

A day to reflect, atone

A day to reflect, atone

Jenny De Soto reflects on life after college during a short visit home to Vienna, Va. on September 5, 2010.