Mail it In

19 11 2007

Norman Mailer, the man whose personality dwarfed his many damn good written works — and, favorite author of BU’s veteran cross-country coach Bruce Lehane — died nine days ago. You gotta see this tribute in New York magazine (thanks to Boston’s Weekly Dig for the reference), which details all of Mailer’s enemies, from their original crime through Mailer’s retribution to the backlash. Makes sense for a man who brought a sense of literary grandeur to boxing.

Check out the saga with Gore Vidal, the sanctimonious snark that he is.

But this got me thinking: where have these creative, searing beefs gone? Feuds between literary icons have ceased to have any sort of legendary status because, well, literary icons don’t really exist anymore outside of Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling (who could kick Brown’s ass). And, thanks to a number of allegedly pernicious influences such as TV violence, video game violence, musical violence, international violence, domestic violence; rap; other sorts of bad lyrics; a general antipathy toward reading; Paris Hilton and other cultural detractions, fights have become artless.

There’s no longer any storyline. It’s all too damn quick. Maybe trading of blows, maybe more. Nothing more than low-vocabulary trash-talk and poorly-choreographed assault. The real good stuff, the really epic fights, were battles of not only fists, but wits. It was a total-body assault. Stuff today’s just too bland, too primal. A fight, like a battle, requires total commitment.

Are we never to have truly interesting feuds anymore? Hip-hop seems to be the only forum in which entertainers still go after each other publically, but, as we saw with Biggie and 2Pac, these issues end much too quickly. The stakes are too damn high; recreational fighting no longer exists.

All in all, Mailer seems to be one of the last vestiges of a much more interesting time for fights. And that means that if there is an afterlife, Gore Vidal better start working out.

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