Readers of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature most likely have a good idea of just how much the late Norman Mailer was a wellspring of jokes about writers. The pugilistic novelist, journalist and failed mayoral candidate did choose to title a collection of his work Advertisements for Myself, after all. Yet as Andrew O’Hagan notes in the LRB, it’s hard not to admire the cojones on a guy who once told a prominent editor he was “still too young and too arrogant to care to write the kind of high-grade horseshit you print in Harper’s Bazaar.”
When Dara Horn was 14, she won a trip to Poland and Israel by acing a buzzer-beating College Bowl-type competition about Israeli history. When she returned, she wrote an essay for Hadassah magazine about visiting the sites of Nazi concentration camps. Her story was nominated for a prestigious National Magazine Award.
At the prize luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria in 1993, she recalls, ‘I was the only one there with braces.’ She didn’t win, but two judges took her aside and confided, ‘You know, you beat Norman Mailer,’ whose essay apparently did not make the finals.
W. H. Auden