Monday, 21 September 2009



"I'm going to go and unfurl," is how a former friend of mine used to excuse himself to go to the toilet.

After a north American unfurling episode, the friend was grateful to Norman Mailer.
On holiday in, I think, Toronto, the friend unfurled in a car park behind a bar and was seen by a Canadian police woman. She beckoned him over - or, at least, he sensed that she wanted him to go over to her - so he furled and walked from his stain to where she was standing.
She was stern and disgusted. "We don't do that in public over here," she said.
The friend was horrified. She let him off with a warning, but he was horrified for months after. He felt he'd disgraced himself and the image of the English abroad.
This shame and distress lasted from summer until November. Though he had no interest in Normie Mailer, as he called him, he came with me to a book launch for Harlot's Ghost.
Mailer talked about the inaccuracy of his reputation. He said - especially when he was 1st famous in NY for Naked and the Dead - he could not, for instance, walk home from a party and stop to urinate between 2 parked cars without it being written about in a newspaper as if it were especially horrible of him.
"My God," he said, "what man here has not urinated between 2 parked cars on his way home from a party or a bar?"
My friend instantly felt better. He had believed he was a bad person and the incident had started to trouble his sleep. Norman Mailer made him feel he was human and OK and he was reeling with relief.

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