21 November 2010

Norris Church Mailer: The Purpose of Beauty, The Beauty of Purpose 1949-2010

Norris Church Mailer  has left us at 61.  The world is visibly dimmer today.

I hope it's okay to describe the arc of a comet...someone I only knew for three years, but who lit up the sky like a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

There are  no words to describe Norris Church Mailer .  Our language has superlatives, but they have been degraded by advertising, TV, our rackety culture. So when you meet someone who truly DOES "amaze" you, delight you, and whose achievements on the private AND public stages surpass (and subsequently expand)  your own ideas of what is possible..
.who inspires an adulation just short of worship in everyone she meets...
whose voice on the printed page, is just like her voice in real life-and is there a harder thing to do than that?---what words work here?

Some words to describe the Norris Church Mailer I knew, would be "radiant", "funny", "strong without seeming tough", "loving" and "self disciplined.". . If you met her once, you just adored her. Ever after.   -Oh and....Beauty. Her literally astonishing physical beauty was flatteringly backlit by her beauty of spirit, and her love of creating beauty and comfort for herself and everyone around her. 

She gave warmly, unstintingly, and with such grace, to her kids, her stepkids, her family, her friends, her fans....the last two categories numbered in the range of  "countless." Her love of beauty -and fun; her love of a family she found disparate and helped make whole; her love of painting.... Norris made  the people around her want to be their best real (and sometimes most mischievous) selves.
 The houses she decorated were both beautiful and delicious to stay in....the books she wrote were both hugely engaging AND beautifully written; it seems like everything I saw Norris do, I saw her bring her whole heart to. Is there anyone better to be around, than someone who brings their whole self to every minute? That quality also made her something as rare in New York city, as snow is in Arkansas: : a great listener.

I was a friend of her son John's: a man who, like his brother Matthew, shares his mother's astounding physical beauty, charm and tawny-eyed charisma.
The first time I met NCM, in Provincetown, she was supervising a house filled with her kids, her stepkids, the spouses, kids, and stepkids of her kids and her stepkids, their cousins, friends, wives..
and I remember thinking "how does she manage all of this and stay so damn gorgeous? It ain't fair."

(I also remember thinking "She's like: if Florence Henderson's character in "The Brady Bunch" was played by the goddess Athena.")

I never met her late, beyond-legendary husband, but I do have a love for his work, and I remember thinking "holy cats, ARE there people who, in their marriage, let themselves be THIS "matched" by a mate's charisma?  Guess so. But wow." Hard to imagine even meeting two such people in one lifetime. 

Even though one may know this act,  this passing, is really  just a passing from one room to the next,...even though the work I do has shown me this....still, just as a selfish ,regular person who was lucky enough to have known Norris, I want her back.
 Everyone who's \ met her, in life or in her books,  \will miss her .  We'll miss her emotional generosity, wry humor, complete unvarnished and sometimes blunt truthtelling; the " wicked-little-Soth'n-girl-" giggle, and the gloriously Technicolor movie-stah-presence that was NCM.

 She taught me to value qualities I had never valued before--as global as "femininity" and as specific as "neatness"--and I remember, every day, things she taught me without seeming to teach at all. 

For some reason, I  spent the last two weeks rereading all of her books: "Ticket to the Circus" (which is destined to be a classic memoir of its time); "Windchill Summer"; and "Cheap Diamonds."
( I remember my friend Ann saying she had proofread "Cheap Diamonds" and had stayed late -without overtime- at her copyediting job, in order to read it again-this time for sheer pleasure.)
Norris's  voice on the page has the same sideways melody as her real voice. Same quirky music and lightning flash insights.  Go read the books, now. -Please.

My deepest sympathy and condolences to John, Matthew, and her family and friends.

Norris Church Mailer was, to a dazzled young woman from a little town upstate, the definition of Glamour; the definition of Generosity, and most of all, the definition of what it is to be, well... a Lady.
To me, she will always be that gracious,  gogeous, dignified, and  just a bit rebellious  belle, who brought more than a roomful of light,  into every room she entered.

love. always.