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A Ticket to the Circus: A Memoir by Norris…

A Ticket to the Circus: A Memoir

by Norris Church Mailer

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Far more entertaining than it had any right to be. The book meanders a lot, and God knows I don't find Norman Mailer's behavior to be nearly as charming or understandable as she did, but still a very solid--if somewhat name-droppy--memoir. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
Read it because of all I'd read about Norman Mailer and his 6 wives and numerous children and involvement with murderer Abbot whom he befriended when Abbot was in jail and subsequently got early release, only to kill someone a few months afterwards. Norris, his wife, was from small Arkansas town and a college prof/friend was friends with Mailer and invited her to meet him. The rest is history. However, she writes very well and very honestly so it was a good read, if you are interested in Norman Mailer. Sadly, she died a couple years after him, shortly after finishing the book, from a recurrence of cancer that plagued her for over 10 years. ( )
  bogopea | Oct 17, 2011 |
Written well and an interesting exploration of an iconic author, but Norris comes off as a little bit holier than thou when she glosses over her affairs as excusable incidents while hammering others (ie, Norman) for his. ( )
  bakeet14 | Jan 30, 2011 |
An appealing memoir of remarkable candor and tact, two qualities that are hard to reconcile. Fortune smiled on Norman Mailer the day he met his last wife!

This book confirms some commonplace beliefs about Mailer and contradicts others. It's hard not to see as a flaw the fact that the figure most readers are chiefly interested in largely disappears from the final chapters of the memoir. But no reader with a passing interest in Mailer's work will regret taking the time to read it. ( )
  jensenmk82 | Aug 20, 2010 |
I love reading life stories of any kind, especially those by or about writers. So when I heard Norris Church Mailer had written a memoir, I immediately raced out and got, read it, and savored it.

Then I mentioned it to a couple of people. "Norman Mailer was a good writer, but how could she have stayed with such a misogynistic, gruff ogre for over thirty years?" was the general response I got. Slightly taken aback by the deep emotional response these intelligent people had toward Norman Mailer, who consequently none of them knew personally, I gave it some thought. Norris Church Mailer refers to this image of her husband, and paints a portrait of a man with good and bad points, who was very passionate and loving and driven in his professioanl pursuits as well as his romantic conquests.

From reading this memoir and from reading some of Mailer's novels and interviews he gave during his career, I see an intelligent man who was perhaps a bit immature, certainly irresponsible in handling relationships, but this picture I have of him is not much different form many other creative types of people who are driven, confident and disciplined in terms of their work habits. And who whose work I admire.

But I have already spent too much space talking about Norman Mailer, because he really isn't the most fascinating part of this book. It is Norris Church herself. She is a gifted storyteller, with southern and modest roots I can relate to, and she accomplishes the feat of being true to herself. She doesn't fall into the trap that some people do of making everything in her life sound wonderful; she doesn't brag on herself, but then she presents no false modesty either. A difficult feat to pull off.

She presents a valid answer to the eternal question of what draws a young, attractive person into a realtionship with an older, more established person: here a man with great talent living a somewhat glamorous New York lifestyle is part of it, but there are many more layers. I think the light she sheds on May-December relationships is one of themost valuable contributions of the book

In addition, she shows the many different sides of herself as a woman, growing and evolving at a time when women's roles in society were very much in flux. She calls herself a feminist, but keeps saying how she was the one taking care of her large family, holding it all together. These seemingly conflicting roles very much define many women of her generation.

She grows as a writer and artist, by practicing her skills, but also by taking chances in living her life. All of us who seek to get better as various creative enterprises should remember the importance of that. ( )
  briantomlin | May 21, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
In one of the most telling toss-away lines, as [Norris]’s recovering from cancer surgery, she writes how “Norman tried to help by making his own breakfast and lunch…” With A Ticket To The Circus, she tells us how she managed to live with such a difficult man for so long, but a more interesting book might have told us why.
added by Shortride | editA. V. Club, Gregg LaGambina (Apr 29, 2010)
If you want to be both edified and amused, you really can't do better than "A Ticket to the Circus." The title is apt.
Norris Church Mailer’s reminiscence, “A Ticket to the Circus,” still manages to add a fat new sheaf to the public dossier on her late husband, Norman Mailer, and tells an involving coming-of-age story to boot. It’s not so much that she gives readers unexpected insights into one of the literary giants of his day — the book does little to dispel the image of Mailer as a narcissistic hothead with redeeming streaks of cuddliness and charm — but rather that, in her own in­direct way, she shows exactly what type of woman could tolerate and at least partly subdue such a king-size corkscrew of a man.
“A Ticket to the Circus” is not a tell-all memoir; it’s a tell-enough memoir. It’s Ms. Mailer’s own plucky and sometimes sentimental autobiography, written in the lemony sweet-tea mode of Southern novelists like Lee Smith.
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My grandpa was a mule skinner. My husband, Norman Mailer, thought that was a noteworthy fact, and he loved to toss it out there in conversation at New York dinner parties, watching the stiff smiles of the socialites as they imagined someone like the Texas Chain Saw Massacre guy skinning out a mule and nailing its bloody hide to the barn door.
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The sixth (and last) wife of Norman Mailer, Norris Church Mailer, met the late writer in 1975, when she was 26 and he twice her age; they were married for 33 years. Her memoir is, among other things, the story of a series of emancipations: from the constraints of her loving but limiting parents and the claustrophobic moralism of her Arkansas hometown; from her first marriage to a man she quickly outgrew; and from her inhibitions about writing and creating art. Norris Church Mailer who has led a life as large and as colorful as her husband's, and every bit as engaging.… (more)

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