Norman Mailer passed away over the weekend. I was never a huge fan of his work (with the exception of THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG), but I was in awe of his brilliance and work ethic, not to mention his sheer pugnaciousness.
One of the most significant memories in my publishing life to date is at the National Book Awards in 2005, when Mailer accepted the award for distinguished contribution to American letters. In his speech he addressed the decline of the serious novel - hitting at the heart of the epidemic by noting that today people take too much pleasure in reading a nasty review of a serious novel instead of trying to appreciate what was involved in creating the work.
Gore Vidal said it best: "He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements.”