In the Media

Rebels Roused

Last October, at the Norman Mailer Center Benefit Gala in New York, Alec Baldwin, master of ceremonies, addressed a congregation of literary activists (including a few notable GQ contributors) with characteristic zeal. His message appeared simple. Follow the likes of Mailer, Muhammad Ali and Oliver Stone, and let your words change the world. But what was he really saying?
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Doubtless, if he were still here, Norman Mailer – who so often sounded the siren for political catastrophe – would be expounding the sentiment. The novelist Joyce Carol Oates, honoured with a lifetime achievement award, spoke for all of Mailer’s fans when she said: “It used to be that however crazy the world got, you could read Norman Mailer,” before adding, affectionately, “I miss his strong voice. I miss dissent in our culture.” In a few verbal rounds, Mailer, you just know, would have made effortless work of Mitt Romney. In an unforgettable description, observing the 35-year-old Mailer at a rally in 1959, the radical writer Abbie Hoffman wrote that he had the air of “some tousle-haired Hebraic James Dean”. If the writer – as much as the cowboy, the beatnik or that Fifties American invention the teenager – is a particular breed of American rebel, writing, too, is a specific, considered kind of protest and the Gala thronged with rebels, including, in a very rare public appearance, Muhammad Ali, Mailer’s muse for his classic book The Fight.
Read more in GQ.