Posted by Nick Curley

May 26th, 1995: Norman Mailer.

Summary: Today would have been Lee Harvey Oswald’s seventy-first birthday.  From the 92nd Street Y, Mailer hypes his conspiracy theories about JFK’s death towards his book Oswald’s Tale.  Branching out of the studio forces a younger, more genteel Rose to serve as soothsaying moderator.  Highlights include Mailer’s thoughts of an increasingly cynical media, predictions for the long-term effects of the OJ trial, “spiritual ecology” post-Vietnam, and his explication on what the term Great American Novel means and which handful of works fit the bill (V1 staple Moby Dick among them).

Best quotation: from Mailer, who says “Part of what’s desperately bad about politics now is that everybody’s searching for the outcome before they make the move… the existential edge of politics is now gone… people don’t get into situations where they don’t know how it’ll turn out.”  Mailer closes the evening (spoiler alert) with the equally rich and more biting kiss off, “There’s a core of decency that isn’t even tapped by the left,” in reference to ways in which his fellow progressives can fight fire with fire in the wake of Newt Gingrich and co. reclaiming Congress.

Rose’s hair and suit: Wafting mini-mane, long and feathered in the back, tapered or slightly matted on the sides.  Wide collared gear, fabric a sickly greenish gray, with a minor faux pas of an ill-matched blue striped shirt and maroon patterned tie.  He is onto pocket squares a good ten years before the fashionistas.  An iconoclast, Rose at once cuts loose and dresses down here in his early fifties, when so many of us approach a second mortgage by dressing more conservatively.  1995 saw most men his age writhing in the figurative and literal Gap, pitched out from post-Bonfire on the Vanities malaise.  Here we see a confident cad on the verge of digging himself out.

 

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