Perhaps Norman Mailer was simply trying to impress Ernest Hemingway. In 1955 Mailer, 32, wrote hoping to get the legendary Hemingway's opinion of his new novel, The Deer Park. Letters of Note reprinted the brash letter last week on what would have been Mailer's 90th birthday. As you'll read, he took a rather, uh, unconventional approach to asking for a favor.
TO ERNEST HEMINGWAY
—because finally after all these
years I am deeply curious to know
what you think of this.
—but if you do not answer, or if you
answer with the kind of crap you
use to answer unprofessional writers,
sycophants, brown-nosers, etc., then
[f***] you, and I will never attempt
to communicate with you again.
—and since I suspect that you're even
more vain than I am, I might as well
warn you that there is a reference to
you on page 353 which you may or may
Regrettably, we'll never know if Mailer's bravado did the trick: The letter came back 10 days later marked in Spanish, "Address Unknown—Return to Sender."
In that same post Letters of Note also reprints a similarly charming letter that Mailer wrote to Robert Silvers, editor of the New York Review of Books, in 1965. Silvers wanted Mailer to review a biography of Hubert Humphrey; Mailer was angry about how his own work had been treated in the NYRB's pages. After explaining that he wouldn't take on the assignment, he closed, "negotiations with your Editorship are, by open measure, inching, tedious, and impoverished as spit."
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