harlot's ghost

Norman Mailer’s outline for Harlot’s Ghost. As he states in his 2007 Art of Fiction interview, “Some say with bland certitude, Of course Mailer is a good nonfiction writer—he’s not much of a novelist. That irritates me, yes. Because the person saying that is just not familiar with my work. No one could read Harlot’s Ghost and say it’s nonfiction, you know. No one could read Ancient Evenings, for God’s sakes, and say that’s nonfiction. They’re not familiar with those works, that’s all. They’ve made up their minds on the basis of the stuff they have read, which tends to be the nonfictional work.”

What if there are not only two nostrils, two eyes, two lobes, and so forth, but two psyches as well, and they are separately equipped? They go through life like Siamese twins inside one person…. They can be just a little different, like identical twins, or they can be vastly different, like good and evil.
—  Kittredge Gardiner, Harlot’s Ghost, By Norman Mailer
Book Review: Harlot's Ghost by Norman Mailer

An enthralling historical novel about a CIA operative and the complex relationship with his mentor. Mailer brilliantly extolls this complex and multi-layered fiction in which real-life historical figures interact with fictional characters, although loosely based on past CIA operatives.

It is a somewhat lengthy book well worth the effort since it has the ability to draw us into the story. In it we discover some of the techniques of spies who ply their trade, of the making of a spy agency, of the ever-lingering possibility of betrayal that looms over agents, of the motivations and shortcoming of individuals who are at the heart of political and historical events.
Stars: 5 out of 5

FROM THE VAULTS:

Espionage

The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad

No man engaged in a work he does not like can preserve many saving illusions about himself. The distaste, the absence of glamour, extend from the occupation to the personality. It is only when our appointed activities seem by a lucky accident to obey the particular earnestness of our temperament that we can taste the comfort of complete self-deception.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, John Le Carré

I would say that since the war, our methods - out and those of the opposition - have become much the same. I mean you can’t be less ruthless than the opposition simply because your government’s ‘policy’ is benevolent, can you now?

Our Man In Havana, Graham Greene

I don’t care a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them, to organizations… I don’t think even my country means all that much. There are many countries in our blood, aren’t there, but only one person. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?

Kim, Rudyard Kipling

‘It is not a good fancy,’ said the llama. ‘What profit to kill men?’
Very little - as I know; but if evil men were not now and then slain it would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers.

Harlot’s Ghost, Norman Mailer

Bright was the light of my last martini on my moral horizon.

The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan

I believe everything out of the common. The only thing to distrust is the normal.

I consider it a vice of the soul,” he said,“ to fail to suffer over one’s lack of profundity. Unless one’s brain is dumb from birth, superficiality is a choice made by the self-indulgent. It is painful in the extreme to live with questions rather than with answers, but that is the only honorable intellectual course. I cannot bear that chirpy Bobby Kennedy, always building his beaver’s nest with a few more facts. He needs to look into the abyss.
—  Norman Mailer, ‘Harlot’s Ghost’

   The precautionary principle was introduced to break this odd connection between scientific certainty and political action, stating that even in the absence of certainty, decisions could be made. But of course, as soon as it was introduced, fierce debates began on its meaning. Is it an environmentalist notion that precludes action or a postenvironmentalist notion that finally follows action through to its consequences?
   Not surprisingly, the enemies of the precautionary principle—which President Chirac enshrined in the French Constitution as if the French, having indulged so much in rationalism, had to be protected against it by the highest legal pronouncements—took it as proof that no action was possible any more. As good modernists, they claimed that if you had to take so many precautions in advance, to anticipate so many risks, to include the unexpected consequences even before they arrived, and worse, to be responsible for them, then it was a plea for impotence, despondency, and despair. The only way to innovate, they claimed, is to bounce forward, blissfully ignorant of the consequences or at least unconcerned by what lies outside your range of action. Their opponents largely agreed. Modernist environmentalists argued that the principle of precaution dictated no action, no new technology, no intervention unless it could be proven with certainty that no harm would result. Modernists we were, modernists we shall be!
   But for its postenvironmental supporters (of which I am one) the principle of precaution, properly understood, is exactly the change of zeitgeist needed: not a principle of abstention—as many have come to see it—but a change in the way any action is considered, a deep tidal change in the linkage modernism established between science and politics. From now on, thanks to this principle, unexpected consequences are attached to their initiators and have to be followed through all the way.
—Bruno Latour, “Love Your Monsters: Why We Must Care for Our Technologies As We Do Our Children,” Breakthrough (Winter 2012)

“I could see from the first day that by one measure you were equal to the best rock climbers. You understood it. You knew you were in one damned awesome church, indeed the only one where religion comes close enough to Our Lord to give a little real sustenance.”
   “Yessir.”
   “There’s a story I was told about some farfetched, terribly intense sect of Jewish people called Hasidim. They used to inhabit village ghettos in Russia and the Ukraine. It seems that one of their fold, a rabbi, was so devotional that he prayed to God forty times a day. Finally, after forty years, the rabbi grew impatient and said, ‘God, I have loved You for so long that I want You to reveal Yourself to me. Why won’t you reveal Yourself to me?’ Whereupon God did just that. He revealed Himself. How do you think the rabbi reacted?”
   “I don’t know.”
   Harlot began to laugh. I had never heard him give a full laugh before. It gave a clue to why he had chosen his name. Inside him were more people than one would have thought. His laugh was all over the place. “Well, Harry, the good fellow dived under the bed and began to howl like a dog. 'Oh, God,’ the rabbi said, 'please do not reveal Yourself to me.’ That, Harry, is a useful story. Before all else, God is awesome. It’s the first thing to know. If Christ had not been sent to us, no one would ever have gotten out of the cave. Jehovah was too much for all of us. There would have been no modern civilization.”
   “What about Egypt, or Greece and Rome? Didn’t they take us out of the cave?”
   “Harry, those cultures marked time. They were perfect examples of the obsessional. Devil’s abodes, all three, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Don’t be impressed by how beautiful they were. The Devil, you must never forget, is the most beautiful creature God ever made. Spiritually, however, those cultures did not choose to emerge from Plato’s cave. It took Christ to come along and say, 'Forgive the sons for the sins of the fathers.’ That’s the day, Harry, that scientific inquiry was born. Even if we had to wait a millennium and more for Kepler and Galileo. So follow the logic: Once the father begins to believe that his sons will not suffer for his acts of sacrilege, he grows bold enough to experiment. He looks upon the universe as a curious place, rather than as an almighty machine guaranteed to return doom for his curiosity. That was the beginning of the technological sleigh ride which may destroy us yet. The Jews, of course, having rejected Christ, had to keep dealing with Jehovah for the next two millennia. So they never forgot. God is awesome. 'Oh, God, do not reveal Yourself to me. Not all at once!”
   He paused. He ordered another drink for each of us, Hennessey for himself, and Old Harper’s, I recollect, for me. “Let us have an Old Harper’s for Young Harry,” he actually said to the waitress, and went right back to his disquisition on the awesome: “I suspect that God is with us in some fashion on every rock climb.”
—N.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Ghost of Harlot (1991)

Mister Chu has heard said

that Mister Norman Mailer will be the next Mister Ernest Hemingway in about ten minutes. Considered to be a blowhard without texture. Unfashionable. But still he has picked up a copy of ‘Harlot’s Ghost’ and nominated it as his beach novel for this summer. It is heavy (in weight) and still good (in memory). It is also of the East, featuring parts of New England Mister Chu can, momentarily, feel akin to.

Many of Mailer’s papers (an analogue concept at this point perhaps) are now at The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin, along with others they’ve also collected (DFW is also already there, so soon after his leaving). But it is here, not in Manila or Vietnam, that Mister Chu is going to imagine this Brooklyn boy over the next month or two.

Mailer had wives called Beatrice, Adele, Jeanne, Beverly, Carol and Norris.

His main character’s (Harry Hubbard) wife in 'Harlot’s Ghost’ is a wonderful cypher, Kittredge, a woman who Mister Chu -for heartbreak- has long nursed inside as a prototype perfect friend of the girl type.

When he first read the book (first met her) and was confused by American women, seeing them as a type unto themselves, he remembered this account of social prejudice:

 

 

Ann Again’s Wake 

I’ve spent the last two hours working on a picture
called ’Ann Again’s Wake
which is of a woman bursting through the mouth of a shark
which is itself biting through your newspaper
as you sit expecting breakfast.
 
This picture is a story about the Hamptons
and a woman ignored,
who amongst her circle of acquaintances
had become like the girl in Class 5 who always reeked of piss.
 
Here comes Ann again,” they’d whisper
as she tried to become a part.
But on this day, disappeared off the point at Montauk
presumed drowned or eaten
every man reading his Times or Journal
imagines Ann in robes flowing
like the Piano woman come to Amagansett
dancing as if from their own daily-tempted mouths
and so entirely at odds with the browned shrikes
who sit now without make-up, aging across the table.
 
The women themselves
and only dimly understanding
find this transition impossible to fathom
and therefore comes ’Ann Again’s Wake
much missed and beloved sister to the mysterious “Finnegan Again,”
which for one or two summers
(when they were younger and closer to college)
was what the women would always say to each other
in resignation, as they pulled out Joyce’s book
and attempted to turn it into a beach novel. 


 

 

 

Mister Chu did paint this picture of the woman and the shark, but it is lost to him now. Left behind when he left a house he had previously lived in. Perhaps he will paint it again.

    — […] Единственное место, которое ещё держится, — это бордель над салоном «Мерседес-Бенц». Вот чего стоят помпезные заявления Кастро о национальном целомудрии. Да сейчас на улицах больше проституток и сутенёров, чем во времена Батисты. Старик Фульхенсио хотя бы поддерживал с помощью полиции порядок в Гаване. А сейчас проститутки, как тараканы, вылезают из всех щелей в надежде подзаработать с каким-нибудь туристом.
    «И вы им дали подзаработать?» — захотелось мне спросить, и, к своему удивлению, я вдруг произнёс это вслух. В Уругвае я бы не посмел, но сегодня вечером у меня было такое чувство, будто в наших с Ховардом отношениях начинается новая эра.
    Хант усмехнулся.
    — Не положено задавать такие вопросы счастливо женатому малому, — заметил он. — Но я вот что тебе посоветую: если кто-нибудь когда-нибудь спросит тебя, почему ты считаешь, что годишься для шпионажа, единственный ответ — посмотреть человеку в глаза и сказать: «Любой, кто обманывал жену и сумел это скрыть, годен для работы в шпионаже».
—  Норман Мейлер, Призрак Проститутки
7

8. Bands/Artists you have seen live.

In 2014:

All Time Low, Tonight Alive, Asking Alexandria, Crown The Empire, The Ghost Inside, Secrets.

In 2015:

Crown The Empire, Set It Off, Dangerkids, Alive Like Me, Attila, Silent Screams, Fathoms, We Are Harlot, September Mourning and Toseland.

The tickets are all on my wall, other than one.

In the future, I already have tickets for Foo Fighters, Iggy Pop, Monster Truck and Nickelback.