The Complete Idiotâ€™s Guide to Norman Mailer
I tried to convince myself that he had just come from a bloody-knuckle Christopher Hitchens ass-kicking, but considering that he was 76 at the time, the chances seemed slim.
My friend Alex was working for the as-yet not officially announced presidential contender John McCain. He hooked me up with an invite to a cocktail party at Bloomberg News to celebrate the release of McCainâ€™s memoir, _Faith of My Fathers._ It was a star-studded affair with luminaries sipping champagne and eating shrimp wrapped in bacon as the author signed books and greeted well-wishers.
As I looked around at my peers in the room while basking in my future glory, I spotted him: The Man. The Myth. The Mailer.
He was sporting an enormous Band-Aid across his forehead. I tried to convince myself that he had just come from a bloody-knuckle Christopher Hitchens ass-kicking, but considering that he was 76 at the time, the chances seemed slim. Mailer was just an old guy in a rumpled suit with a large Band-Aid covering up some kind of splotch underneath his thinning white hair.
So, he looked a bit silly. What did I care? This was my opportunity to kick-start my quest to become the 21st-century Norman Mailer by taking mental notes about the 20th-century version. I walked over and somewhat sheepishly introduced myself.
â€œHello, um, Mr. Mailer," I began. "Iâ€™m a writer, and I just wanted to say that I am a big fan of yourâ€”â€
â€œWhatâ€™s your name?â€
â€œHow do you spell that?â€
Mailer mulled that over for a few long seconds while I tried to think of something intelligent and witty to say, the kind of remark that would get me invited to dinner parties in Provincetown. Before I came up with anything, Mailer interjected.
â€œYouâ€™re a writer, huh? Have you written anything I might be familiar with?â€
In my mind, the writerâ€™s life I was envisioning for myself went down in a fiery crash like John McCainâ€™s A-4 Skyhawk. Not only did I not have a single worthwhile credit to offer the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning writer standing in front of me, but I also couldnâ€™t look this living legend in the eye because the peculiar, unexpected Band-Aid had me hypnotized.
So I half-mumbled a response: â€œAre you familiar with the Complete Idiotâ€™s Guide series?â€
â€œUm, well, theyâ€™re mass-market reference books, but, um, you knowâ€¦Iâ€™m just getting started, and wellâ€¦anyhow, I just wanted to say itâ€™s an honor to meet you.â€
Mailer gave me the smile of a pugnacious grandfather. "Well, Patrick Sauer, Iâ€™ll look out for that name. Who knows? Maybe Iâ€™ll be writing for you one of these days.â€
He shook my hand. And then he wandered off to the party.