Mailer to Styron: Stop Being Neurotic!

The New York Review of Books is publishing a few letters of Norman Mailer to his friend William Styron and I quote here one such, which speaks of what writers go through, in the writing process, i.e., becoming quite neurotic. Norman Mailer (he who married Marilyn Monroe [see picture]), whose wit and sassiness I greatly admire, writes the following admonition to Styron to stop being neurotic. More of the letters appear here.

February 26, 1953

“Dear Bill,

“You certainly deserve a fan letter. As a matter of fact I’ve been meaning to write ever since I read “Long March” about a month ago. I think it’s just terrific, how good I’m almost embarrassed to say, but as a modest estimate it’s certainly as good an eighty pages as any American has written since the war, and really I think it’s much more than that. You watch. It’s going to last and last and last. And some day people will consider it as being close to the level of something as marvelous as The Heart of Darkness, which by the way, for no reason I know, it reminded me of.

“Barbara mentioned that you’re without a book at the moment. No solace I can offer, except that crap about waiting and patience which is all true, but no consolation at all.

“I have only one humble criticism. I wonder if you realize how good you are. That tendency in you to invert your story and manner your prose just slightly, struck me—forgive the presumption—as coming possibly from a certain covert doubt of your strengths as a writer, and you’re too good to doubt yourself. Which I suppose is like saying, “You, neurotic—stop being neurotic!””

Hope budding writers will take heed when writing their oeuvres full of angst and animus. Take it easy, let go, stop being neurotic, have fun writing!

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