Norman Mailer & Martin Amis, No Strangers to Controversy, Talk in 1991

Mar­tin Amis will nev­er win a pop­u­lar­i­ty con­test. Nor did Nor­man Mail­er. Back in 1960, Mail­er famous­ly stabbed his wife after a din­ner par­ty in New York City, and even when things weren’t so extreme, he was often behav­ing bad­ly. Take for exam­ple this appear­ance on The Dick Cavett Show with Gore Vidal in 1971. It’s hard to find a less sym­pa­thet­ic fig­ure, at least dur­ing his ear­ly years.

As for Amis, he has nev­er worked hard to make friends, stak­ing out con­tro­ver­sial posi­tions on Mus­lims and euthana­sia and then, ear­li­er this year, going out of his way to mock writ­ing for chil­dren: “Peo­ple ask me if I ever thought of writ­ing a chil­dren’s book. I say, if I had a seri­ous brain injury I might well write a chil­dren’s book, but oth­er­wise the idea of being con­scious of who you’re direct­ing the sto­ry to is anath­e­ma to me, because, in my view, fic­tion is free­dom and any restraints on that are intol­er­a­ble.” You get the drift.

But good writ­ers rarely win pop­u­lar­i­ty con­tests. And few will deny that Mail­er and Amis have put their stamp on the Anglo-Amer­i­can lit­er­ary scene. So here you have it — Mar­tin Amis inter­view­ing Nor­man Mail­er in 1991, upon the release of Mail­er’s sprawl­ing 1400-page CIA epic, Har­lot’s Ghost. The first clip (above) starts with the nov­el, the remain­ing parts move in many dif­fer­ent direc­tions. The writ­ing life, writ­ing about homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, the state of cap­i­tal­ism, Amer­i­ca after the Cold War, Mail­er’s lega­cy — it’s part of the 40 minute con­ver­sa­tion. Find Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

You can find this video per­ma­nent­ly list­ed in our new col­lec­tion of 235 Cul­tur­al Icons.

via Metafil­ter

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.