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”I’ve had to smell your works from time to time.” —NORMAN MAILER
”I knew Norman’s syndrome. If I was on the cover of Time and he wasn’t, my God he would be insulting me in the press. He couldn’t stop.” —GORE VIDAL
The most outrageous literary feud of the century, captured through rare interviews, transcripts, and correspondence.
Commencing at about the point where they’d become the two most famous writers in the world, Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal engaged in a vicious and oh-so-public feud that went on for decades. Their 1971 confrontation on the Dick Cavett show is probably the most famous literary encounter ever captured by television. The on-air badinage between the two was shockingly
nasty, but some reports say it was even worse backstage, where Mailer reportedly “headbutted” Vidal in Cavett’s greenroom.
The feud, from a time when writers really mattered in American public life, is the stuff of literary legend, and Vidal vs. Mailer collects the exchanges, transcripts and interviews that document the historic rivalry.
As we learn, it was a feud from the very start. Mailer recounts in a joint Esquire interview—published here in full here for the first time—that during their first meeting Vidal promised a rivalry to the death and swore that he’d surely out-live Mailer.
Mailer preferred more combative and physical exchanges. At the climax of the feud in the late 1970s, Mailer encountered Vidal at a party thrown by Lally Weymouth and promptly flattened him with a punch. At which point Vidal, still on the floor, uttered what is perhaps the most immortally apt literary criticism ever: “Once again, words have failed Norman Mailer.”