KING AND I

Brian Sorgatz is a freelance writer from Sacramento. Since he maintains a website called Reflections on Playboy (because, he says, he “flatters myself to think that Kendra Wilkinson might call this blog intellectual pimping”), his work is well-known in these precincts–Brian pays my colleagues and me the tremendous compliment of paying close attention to what we do (maybe even closer attention to what we do than we do.) Anyway, in fulfillment of his quest to examine all things Playboy, he read The Coup–and liked it. “A hell of a ride!” he says in a review he’s posted on his website. “Malanowski’s prose has an agreeable trait in common with that of Stephen King: the vivid characters appear against the technicolor backdrop of American mass culture. With both authors, the effect is the literary equivalent of the best experience you could ever hope to have with 3-D glasses.” Stephen King, eh? There’s a compliment that will keep us warm this winter. Thanks, Brian!

UNDER THE COVERS

So it is President Jack Mahone? Or is it Prime Minister Adam Lang? A website called The Rap Sheet, edited by J. Kingston Pierce, points out that the same stock image shot by photographer Mike Powell is used both on the cover of The Coup, and on the cover of Robert Harris‘s new political thriller, The Ghost. It’s kind of amazing that the enormously talented, creative, successful Harris and his team would feel the need to poach some of the luster from my modest offering, but can you deny the evidence of your own eyes? Shocking!

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Meanwhile, Doubleday has come up with a brand new cover for the paperback edition of The Coup, which will be out in July. Let’s see what that big fat copycat Harris comes up with now!
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STARTING WITH MAILER

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I don’t think Norman Mailer made me want to be a writer, but I know Norman Mailer made me think being a writer could be exciting. My parents subscribed to Life and Time and Newsweek, and Mailer was a fixture in their pages, as a subject and contributor (it’s hard to imagine Time and Newsweek putting a writer other than J.K. Rowling on the cover today, but they did then: Mailer, Updike, Nabokov, Buckley. . . .) And inside? Mailer marching on the Pentagon and arguing with feminists and running for mayor of New York and insulting Gore Vidal on The Dick Cavett Show, and all his brio and bravado made me want to read his books. And so I read The Armies of the Night and The Prisoner of Sex and Miami and the Siege of Chicago, certainly not getting half of what he was putting into those works, but nonetheless marveling at them, at his flood of words. “Rockefeller’s smile was as warm as February sunshine,’’ he wrote, I think—I’m quoting from memory–but those books were full of lines like that, sharp, funny shots that sized up the public men of the moment and bared their shortcomings, and I thought he was brilliant, even though in my youth I couldn’t always explain why.

After he ran for mayor (on a ticket with the great Jimmy Breslin, running for president of the City Council) I read another book, Managing Mailer, by his campaign manager, a Village Voice writer named Joe Flaherty. In his blurb for the book, Mailer—accurately, and without embellishment—said “Flaherty treats a dozen delicate egos like golf balls and then proceeds to see how far he can whap them.’’ It’s true—the book is unsparing, smart-alecky, keenly observed. It’s just wonderful. Here’s Flaherty’s description of the day Mailer and Breslin spoke at a student demonstration at Queens College:

“About a thousand students sat in a sun-baked mall waiting for the candidates. Others sat or dangled from walls and windows, giving the campus the look of a seized border town. And then there was the heat and the flesh—young men, shirtless, with bodies that had not yet made the acquaintance of fat, and young girls in shorts whose brown thighs were covered with a veil of blond algae. . . .Breslin stood, waiting for them to quiet down. Finally Mailer could no longer resist the compelling of stink of sweat and sensuality. He put his arm across Breslin’s body and pushed him aside, seizing the podium. And to answer all their questions and define their religion, he screamed `Fuck!’, plunging into them as if they were a pair of open legs.’’

This was the book that made me think that living a writing life in New York could be a life worth living.

All these years later it’s no revelation to say that I’m not a writer of towering talent like Mailer or with the great soul of Breslin, but after beginning my studies with Mailer I have perhaps become a writer like Flaherty, who was 47 when he died in 1984, just before publishing a pretty good novel called Tin Wife. Maybe that’s what it means to be a great figure like Mailer—you start ripples that meet ripples that start other ripples that keep going and going, all the way to an unimagined shore.

THE READING AT ROBIN’S

Thanks to the folks at Robin’s Bookstore in Philadelphia for holding a reading for me. Ray Garman (below left) and his colleagues were very helpful. He has promised to send a recording of the event–which I hope captures the sound of what can only be described as a mini-festival–cheers, applause, horns–that broke out in the middle of my act. (I would like to claim that they were for me, but–but this is MY blog. So, yeah–they were for me. Hell yeah they were.) Right?”

Also thanks to Duane Swierczynski (below right), who gave me a wonderful introduction in which he committed Flattery in the First Degree, saying that when he was an undergraduate “I knew the masthead of SPY like Beatlemaniacs knew the names John, Paul, George and Ringo. . . .So imagine my surprise when a college professor told me, “Hey, you know Jamie Malanowski is a La Salle grad, don’t you?” This was someone saying, “Hey, you knew George Harrison went here, don’t ya?”’ Now students, that’s a compliment. Duane also conducted an interview with me that he posted on his website. It’s up now. Ray Garman and mephiladelphia-reading-002.jpgMe and David

It was especially great to see my cousin-in-law David McGinley (above), who is a painter who lives in Philadelphia. (He gave me a beautiful print of one of his works as a gift, which is about to hung in a place of honor chez Malanowski .) David and I became friends a few years ago when, performing under the name Keith Primi, he was part of the acting troupe that played in Loose Lips, the Off-Broadway show that Kurt Andersen and Lisa Birnbach and I wrote. David played Prince Charles, Charles Manson, Andrew Wylie, and many others personages, and he was just hilarious. The art world’s lucky to have such a gifted fellow in its company.

MAIL CALL!

Michael White runs a daily amusing caption contest at his site mypalmike.com, and thus it came as almost no surprise when he was one of the winners of the amusing New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest (one of a series) that my friend Daniel Radosh runs on his site, radosh.net. As it happens, Michael’s prize was a copy of The Coup. Showing himself to a man who takes his prizes seriously, Michael read the book, and showing himself to be the product of well-mannered upbringing, he wrote me a note. It says, “I’m no book reviewer, but any book that keeps me interested enough to read straight through in one sitting, as The Coup did, is a winner. The pacing was crisp, the satire wonderful, and the characters all too convincingly real. Every time the plot seemed to have a hole opening up (won’t someone figure out the Tom Ralston pool / Godwin Pope connection?), the story ended up filling it in. The ending was indeed ‘altogether satisfying’, to steal from Kurt Andersen‘s review on the back cover. In short, thanks very much, and congratulations on the success of your book.’’

Thanks, dude, I appreciate it. Continue reading “MAIL CALL!”