Friday, 20 May 2005

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Mailer on Details: The Chicago Seven Trial Norman Mailer's testimony during the Chicago Seven trial, full of Yippies, Hippies, and Panthers arrested for supporting the candidancy of Pigasus the Immortal (shown here being taken into custody), is one of the few extant examples of a novelist at the height of his powers being grilled under oath. At issue is the behavior of Jerry Rubin in the days leading up to and following the protest. Here is Mailer answering William Kunstler's question about whether he had a conversation with Rubin after the protest: Yes, I did in December in my home. I had called Mr. Rubin and asked him to see me because I was writing an account of the march on the Pentagon. I was getting in touch with those principals whom I could locate. Mr. Rubin was, if you will, my best witness. We talked about the details of the march on the Pentagon for hours. We went into great detail about many aspects of it. And in this period I formed a very good opinion of Mr. Rubin because he had extraordinary powers of objectivity which an author is greatly in need of when he is talking to witnesses. Mr. Schultz, the State's attorney, objects of this insightful look into the characteristics of a good witness. But Mr. Schultz objects, and the court strikes all this testimony from the books. Then, out of nowhere, Mr. Schultz demands that Norman Mailer, one of America's greatest living novelist, be barred from using adjectives in his testimony: Your Honor, would you instruct Mr. Mailer even though he can't use all of the adjectives which he uses in his work, he should say "he said" and "I said," or if he wants to embellish that, then "I stated" and "he stated." But that's the way it is related before a jury. I won't comment on "I stated" being an "embellished" form of "I said." The court, however, did embellish on Mr. Schultz's anti-embellishment directive: We are simple folk here. All you have to do is say "he said", if anything, "I said," if anything, and if your wife said something, you may say what she said. "Great Author," the court pleaded, "We are simple folk here. Our rube ears bend like willows before your ad-ject-ives. Refrain, Great Author, refrain." During cross-examination, however, the prosecution cast aside its rube ears and started paraphrasing from Armies of the Night, and, interesting enough, so did Mailer. He recapitulated the dilemma that occupies him during much of the book: I was in a moral quandary. I didn't know if I was being scared or being professional and I was naturally quite upset because a man never likes to know that his motive might be simple fear. On re-direct, when asked whether Jerry Rubin had ever used the word "intimidate," Mailer again tries to summarize his history-as-novel/novel-as-history: It would be impossible for me to begin to remember whether Mr.Rubin used the word "intimidate" or not. I suspect that he probably did not use it...

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