I have always, for whatever reason, mixed up Norman Mailer and Philip Roth, and in fact before writing this particular episode had to google both of them just to make sure I had them both straight this time, which is how I learned that Philip Roth is actually still alive, which seems incredible to me somehow. Who knew!
I'm not even sure why I've always mixed the two of them up, other than the fact that they are both two men whose books I've never read; based on a cursory examination of their respective Wikipedia pages, they don't seem to have that much in common. (Let me also add, because it seems relevant, that I have never been able to remember which is the father and which the son between Kingsley and Martin Amis; all I can ever remember is that I fucking hate Lucky Jim, a book I have tried to finish on three non-consecutive occasions, but have only ever succeeded in flinging across the room).* But for whatever reason, I've always sort of blended the two of them together into a single grumpy midcentury dude who wrote a lot of books called, I don't know, things like The Indignity of Noise or Sepsis or Profession: A New American Gospel.
Which means that a lot of the time, when I'm telling one of the five or six stories I tell at parties (one of which is how SUPPOSEDLY Ricky Martin says the best hookup of his life was with a young aspiring dancer he met on the set of the music video for She Bangs named Channing Tatum, a story that is almost certainly too beautiful to be true but that brings me endless joy), I have to stop and double-check: Wait, which one of these dudes stabbed his wife at a party, and tried to keep the other guests from calling her an ambulance, and then went to exactly none amount of jail over it, and was super nonchalant about having committed attempted murder for the rest of his life, and I think went on the Dick Cavett show at one point to say, basically, "When is everyone going to get over the fact that I stabbed my wife"? And it's Norman Mailer, but my brain always tries to supply Philip Roth by accident, and I feel like I owe him an apology. Philip Roth, I'm sorry that my brain thinks you are both dead and the kind of person who stabbed his wife in public. You're someone else.
I do not believe I owe Norman Mailer anything.
*N.B. To the best of my recollection, I have only ever thrown two books across the room in a fit of rage. I've thrown Lucky Jim repeatedly, but it was always the same copy, so I think it just counts as one. The other was The Mists of Avalon, and I stand by that decision.
**N.B. the second. I am currently in a hotel room with Nicole Cliffe where we just exchanged the following dialogue:
ORTBERG: I'm writing about always mixing up Philip Roth and Norman Mailer –
CLIFFE: Excellent –
ORTBERG: And how much I fucking hate Lucky Jim.
CLIFFE (brokenly, recitatively): You are beautiful and should never be questioned.