Last Words From Norman Mailer's Last Wife

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Norris Church Mailer, a novelist and sixth wife of writer Norman Mailer, died on Sunday of gastrointestinal cancer. She was 61. Host Scott Simon shares this remembrance, including an excerpt from an interview with her that aired earlier this year.


Norris Church Mailer died this week. She was 61. She was born Barbara Davis, a stunningly beautiful high school art teacher from Russellville, Arkansas, who briefly dated Bill Clinton and met a brilliant man twice her age at a book party one night, at a time when he was divorcing his fourth wife and marrying his fifth. Not exactly a fairy tale meeting. But Norris Church moved to New York and became Norman Mailer's sixth wife.

We spoke with her this spring about her memoir, "A Ticket to the Circus," and asked a question that a woman who marries a lifelong philanderer probably asks herself...

(Soundbite of archived recording)

SIMON: Why did you stay?

Ms. NORRIS CHURCH MAILER (Author, "A Ticket to the Circus"): Oh, Scott, you know, you don't - there's times you leave somebody for something like this, but there's - it's not so easy to just - you don't leave a person, you leave your whole life. You leave a family. You leave thousands of little habits. You leave, you know, we had nine children. We'd been together - at that point - we wound up being together almost 33 years and we were at that point together about 16 years. I was these kids' mother. I had, you know, we had a son of our own who was 14 at the time. To leave an entire life - to go to what? (Unintelligible) to go to nothing, to start all over again?

SIMON: Norris Church Mailer, who was also a model, novelist, and painter, died this week after an 11-year struggle with cancer.

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