Mine was Norman Mailer, fall or winter of 1972. My then-boyfriend, a freshman at the local college, knew I liked writing, so he took me to see a famous writer. Ignorant as eggs we sitting on bleachers in the gym looking at the first published writer I ever saw. I remember his tightly curled (like sheep's wool) hair. He talked at length about "existentialism," very big then.
Mailer denounced "Women's Lib," and a woman in the audience stood up and said, "Women's Lib isn't ____[forgot what she said]; it is a FACT." And Mailer replied, "Your ass
is not a fact." Nobody laughed but nobody left. The probable origin of this then-very-daring/discomfiting exchange: In 1971 Mailer had published The Prisoner of Sex
, a book tearing apart feminist intellectuals such as Kate Millett, whose world-changing Sexual Politics
(1970) tore apart some work of Mailer's. I would not read Sexual Politics
until 1975 (receiving it as a Christmas gift from another boyfriend). And that's all I recall. I don't remember that Mailer's books were sold there or that Mailer read from his books. This was when writers commonly toured. (What writer now would be booked by his publisher on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, so named because calling it UW-Kenosha would make people laff?) But I don't think that at that time writers toured only to read excerpts from their books. If somebody can recall, set me straight on this. It could have been that people sought writers' views on things in general, because writers, or artists in general, were equated with thinkers.
Later. when I read some Mailer, given all I knew of him, I judged him as an excellent stylist with a gift for turning a phrase. I believe he was not as much a thinker as a "doer," which, for all who are doers, carries with it the risk of making an ass of yourself.
[Photo of Norman Mailer, 1988, used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License