Wednesday, February 06, 2002

This interview in the Guardian with Norman Mailer is very interesting. I've never been a huge Mailer fan of any kind--I read "The Naked And The Dead" but not all that much else--and I never fully comprehended how deeply disturbed this man's life has been. I'd somehow forgotten just how vast the quantity of feuds, fistfights and stabbings had been...geniuses are cursed, but some are also very lucky that it makes society put up with these kind of psychotic ravings.

This interview directly addresses that, and the style is reminiscent of a though Mailer is putting his house in order for the inevitable. He's typically frank and easy with his "handwave" explanations for psychotic behavior over the years--a kind of intellectual's version of "boys will be boys."

While I make no pretense of having a lot in common with Mr. Mailer, some of the comments on his style, and discussions of his work I've read strike a chord with me. I think my work also thrives on exploring the boundaries between personal flaw and social exposure, and although I use nerosis more than machismo I think my work has more in common with this school (which includes Hunter S. Thompson and Joan Didion) than it does with Spalding Gray and the confessional performance art movement.

At the same time, I'm a commedian, so there are certain boundaries that the culture won't let you cross. i was talking to some industry people this week about television possibilities, and it really struck me how many issues that might seem "interesting" for an academic regarding identity and perception become very, very real when you are turning your life into a kind of art on the stage. If I tell my stories, and that is my idiom, have I lost something if Charlie Sheen is "me" in a movie version? What if I'm still playing "me" live on stage every night--is that the same "me" that people are taking home from bookstores? Do any of these versions touch on the actual me, the one that is typing now, or the one that just took a shower and is now going out to see Gosford Park?

I raise the questions because they're interesting, though I fear their navel-gazing qualities. Hate him or love him, Mailer did a superb job of living inside a mythology he generated that was larger than he could possibily be--a mythology of machismo. I think he recognizes that, saw it all along, and this interview made me think about my own self-awareness.

That said, it is time to walk down my street in the very real February night and see a very fictional movie.