Saturday, November 29, 2008

Peter Manso: notes of a displeased groupie

Image result for mailer peter mansoAuthor Peter Manso published a highly readable oral history of his then-hero and mentor Norman Mailer in the '80's titled " Mailer: His Life and Times". Manso, a good writer in all other respects, has republished the book with a 44-page afterword in which he repays the insult Mailer had paid him when it turned out the biography displeased him greatly. Mailer and Manso were close friends during the eighties, with Manso admitting as much that he was, more or less, Mailer's acolyte.

The pair even shared a beachfront house in Provincetown, MA. Mailer had written to the local paper ""P.D. Manso is looking for gold in the desert of his arid inner life, where lies and distortions are the only cactus juice to keep him going." Ouch. But what puzzles me is that Peter Manso has seemingly nurtured the hurt for over thirty years and now takes a few too many pages to give his account, share gossip, insult Mailer friends. The aggrieved author seems less a wounded innocent than a gold digger irritated that this vein will yield no more.

The lesson, I suppose, is that one ought not live with their heroes.I'd agree that Manso's Mailer biography is a fascinating read as far as it goes; it's hard to go astray when you've got a group of interesting people giving an intimate account of a singularly intriguing and often brilliant personality like Mailer. But based on this, Manso's introduction to the new edition just sounds like 44 pages of sour grape he wants everyone to take a sip from. The problem with having heroes who embody every virtue and ambition one wants to cultivate for their own is that heroes will betray you, intentionally or otherwise.

I've no idea what went on between the two men while they occupied that beachfront property, but it's very possible Mailer had other things he wanted to do besides listening to the sound and sight of a dedicated fanboy sucking up; perhaps Manso crossed over from being a mere acolyte and exhibited a malignant sycophancy. Or maybe not; Manso would have served himself better getting over a three-decade-old slight and finessed his remarks a tad more. It was Mailer's particular genius to make himself, as subject, fascinating in ways a reader wouldn't have suspected. That same talent isn't Manso's. Would that he merely republished his worthy oral history and gone onto another book.


  1. Anonymous6:20 AM PST

    Seems to me that Burke has not read, either the book or the afterword. Had he read the book hew would not have mistaken Providence for Provincetown. Hey Ted why don't you do the reading instead of relying on other people's opinions. It is quite obvious that you know nothing about the relationship between these two very important writers. You choose Mailer simply because of his popularity. If you were an intellectual you would know that Mailer has not written anything worthwhile for a very long time, you would know that he was a woman hater and a lousy father. You would know that he lied about his "Progressive" positions. No point in going on since you are obviously deaf and blind.

  2. Oh dear, someone else who wants to reshuffle their yellowed Mailer-bashing clippings. Fine, have at it.

    Mailer is the better writer of the two, in case you hadn't noticed. "If you were an intellectual" , you'd have figured that out for yourself.

    Manso's afterward to the new edition is gamy stuff and I repeat what I said before that it's odd that the poor , wounded man has been nursing his resentment all these decades. Mailer moved on to other books and Manso did what? Waited for Mailer to die so he could kick dirt on the man's grave.
    Class act.

    Face it , friend, you're a routine Mailer hater who , like Manso, can't seem to get beyond things that happened oh, so long ago. Not that Mailer's problems with women or his quizzical politics aren't worth debating, it's just that you're more interested in moldy snark than in an exchange of views.

    Is calling me deaf and blind the smartest thing you have to say? If you're going to insult someone, at least say something that isn't a cliche.

    Get a grip.

  3. Anonymous7:59 AM PDT

    Mailer was all over Provincetown since before Manso was born and he certainly left a trail of haters.
    But he also had a lot of admirers.
    Yet somehow Manso managed to create many more Manso-haters in a much shorter time, including Mailer himself.
    And very few, if any, admirers.
    Manso has always been a jerk, an opinion that is widely shared in Provincetown.
    Whatever the true facts may be, Manso rubs almost everyone the wrong way, usually sooner rather than later, and that's a fact.

  4. Anonymous6:42 PM PDT

    I knew Mr. Mailer personally in his later years and found him to be a wonderful father to all his children. Obviously Mr.Manso would know this if he had actually spent time with him the last 30 years. Norman Mailer knew what he was doing when he refused to continue their friendship. One of the smartest moves he made. K.A. / Boston

  5. Debbie Erickson7:42 AM PST

    Thankyou. I was glad to see this, after having my art criticised by this mr. Manso. I don't mind constructive criticism, but malicious criticism I will not tolerate. I am glad to see others do not lend him credence.

  6. Manso does not take criticism well, as he has shown a habit of reviewing his own books on Amazon and attacking those who have offered non-salutatory remarks about his work. He came after me several times, under his name and , I suspect, under a pseudonym, on because of my negative remarks toward this book. His criteria for invalidating my estimation is that I have not published widely, nor had a major best seller. This is an idiotic way to refute a harsh opinion, but it does give a clue to Manso's personality, which seems venal, insecure, grandiose and generally mean spirited.


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