So Execute Him Already....
This week's question - What classic novel has struck me as a "naked emperor"? Funny enough, Jane Austin immediately popped to mind but I see that Robin already beat me to it. So I'll go in the opposite direction.
I am a huge fan of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Read it, loved it, read it again, saw the movie. My day job is to produce true crime shows for television so I appreciate a well told, true crime story. In Cold Blood balances the stories of the victims, their killers, the lawmen, and the town, with compassion but also with an edge.
Someone, hearing I loved Capote's book, suggested I read Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, the story of Gary Gilmore, who was executed in Utah in 1977. It won a Pulitzer and has been a used in discussions of capital punishment. It's an important book. It's also a long book - over 1,000 pages. The length was actually a vote in its favor. I read a lot of non-fiction history and biography, and I like it when they're long.
But, truth be told, I'm not a Norman Mailer fan. The relentless, endless machismo in all his work (And his personal life - he was married six times and once head-butted Gore Vidal...) gets on my nerves sometimes. Yeah, I get it, Norman. You're all man.
But, I like true crime, so despite my feelings about Mailer I starting reading The Executioner's Song.
And I was bored. Maybe it was the subject - Gilmore struck me as juvenile and uninteresting. Like so many murderers I've met in my years in TV, Gilmore was a narcissist who lacked impulse control. If he had genuine insight into his behavior, or anything redeemable about him, then I missed it. He was a main character facing a death sentence and I was almost as anxious for it to arrive as Gilmore was.
Or maybe it was Mailer's level of detail which was, at least to me, a bit obsessive. And then there was the "I'm tougher than you" posturing in Mailer's language. Again, I get it. You're all man. All heterosexual man. Maybe it was the fact that he was small, or maybe it's because his mother named him Norman, but at a certain point I began to wonder what he was compensating for.
Or maybe it was me. Maybe I don't have sufficient gravitas or intellectual curiosity. I do work in TV after all.
In any case, I got about 600 pages in and then just gave up.
It's hard to admit that I don't like a celebrated American writer, who has won awards and accolades I never will (nor do I deserve), but there it is. If he were alive, Mailer would probably head butt me.