Married to It
A Ticket to the Circus:
by Norris Church Mailer
$26.00 List Price
"Which wife are you?" The audacity of this question, often posed to Norris Church Mailer, sixth wife of Norman Mailer, reflects the particular challenges of marrying a larger-than-life literary icon with a checkered reputation. Consider for a moment the skill set required to be Mailer's wife: an ability to play second fiddle to an outsize ego (Mailer's pugnacious self-infatuation was legendary), a willingness to overlook the past (Mailer stabbed his second wife, Adele, with a penknife at a party) without also neglecting its spoils (Mailer already had seven children), the capacity to support a writer's need for solitude (Mailer wrote prolifically and traveled often) without becoming jealous or suspicious (Mailer cheated on Norris for much of their married life).
Despite having taken on a role that required superhuman levels of patience and acceptance, Norris offers a straightforward account of her life with her Pulitzer Prize–winning husband that's remarkably devoid of bitterness, blame, or self-aggrandizement. Instead of digging up ancient grudges or indulging in petty one-upmanship with any of Mailer's other wives or mistresses (a few of whom have written books of their own), she presents the details of her relationship with a humble but headstrong tone that somehow disassembles our preconceptions about the sort of statuesque redheaded southern girl who clamors to meet famous married authors. Norris herself never hesitates to cast aspersions on her own reputation, as when she describes her first encounter with Mailer in 1975: "I patted the seat beside me, and he came and