ARCHIVE: A Tough Guy’s Last Dance

dwayne-and-norman-june-2006jpg-4fa05227f78c8d23_mediumAuthor Dwayne Raymond — pictured at right with the late author Norman Mailer — visits Red Bank on Tuesday night to promote MORNINGS WITH MAILER, his book about the years he spent as the literary lion’s editorial assistant, cook and friend.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit March 8, 2010)

He was called a lot of things in his time — working class champion and fame-hungry narcissist; sweet-natured guy and wifebeating misogynist; courageous activist and confrontational a-hole; a good friend and a great writer. During the 60 years that preceded his passing at age 84 in 2007, Norman Mailer staked a career-long claim on a position as alpha dog of American letters — in an era when writers were household celebs, sought-after guests, respected pundits, and above all, people who wrote what they damn well pleased.

From the time he punched his way into the literary scene with his breakthrough book The Naked and the Dead, Mailer wrote scores of well-known novels (The Pulitzer-winning Executioner’s Song), nonfictions (fellow Pulitzer winner Armies of the Night), biographies (Marilyn), essays (The White Negro), poems, plays, columns and correspondence. He also found time to run for Mayor of New York City, to co-found The Village Voice, and to direct a series of way-out, largely improvised 1960s films like Wild 90 and Maidstone — the latter of which climaxes with a real-life fight between a shirtless Mailer and a hammer-wielding Rip Torn.

And he was born in Long Branch, NJ, although you probably didn’t hear that from him.

A resident of Provincetown, Massachusetts in the last decade of his life, Mailer never deviated from his prolific pace — producing his last four books with the help of a young writer named Dwayne Raymond. It was Raymond — who Mailer met when the younger guy was waiting tables in a P-town bistro — that became the literary lion’s first and only editorial assistant, as well as personal cook and, most importantly, a good friend. And it’s that relationship that forms the basis ofMornings with Mailer: A Recollection of Friendship, a memoir that the Huffington Post contributor will be reading from, discussing and signing when he stops in Tuesday evening at NovelTeas Authors Aromas & Gifts on the Left Bank of Red Bank.

Established by Kim Widener as a home base and focal point for her nascent NovelTeas brand, the recently inaugurated book salon/ tea room/ gift boutique previously hosted financial-thriller journalist William D. Cohan (a followup appearance by The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin was snowed out and will be rescheduled for a later date). The 7pm event includes a signing copy of the book and a reception catered by Monmouth County’s own international celebri-chefDavid Burke (of David Burke Fromagerie and many other restaurants of renown). Admission is $45, and you can take it here to register.

The event is also part of “Memoir March” over at NovelTeas, with the shop inviting guests to enjoy a complimentary cup of tea and share their own “six word memoir” (a la Hemingway’s profoundly brief “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”). Here at Red Bank oRBit (where it takes us six words just to tell you we love you), we’re happy to share this interview with wordsmith Raymond, available to all when you Continue Reading.

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