Showing posts with label Peter Manso. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peter Manso. Show all posts

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Peter Manso: notes of a displeased groupie

Image result for mailer peter mansoThe 1980s saw the publication of a highly readable oral history of his hero and mentor Norman Mailer, titled "Mailer: His Life and Times", by author Peter Manso. 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 newspaper, stating that P.D. Manso is seeking gold in the arid desert of his inner life, where lies and distortions are the sole source of sustenance for him.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 issue with having heroes who embody every virtue and goal one desires for themselves is that they will betray you, whether they're doing it out of love or not.

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.