Don DeLillo, Joan Didion, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, and many more honored Norman Mailer’s memory Tuesday night with the first annual gala and benefit celebrating his writers’ colony. VIEW OUR GALLERY.
On Tuesday night, inside the cavernous hall of Cipriani 42nd Street, a group of the country’s best writers and thinkers gathered together to celebrate the memory of author Norman Mailer—and the writers’ colony in Provincetown, Massachusetts, that now exists in his name. The first annual gala and benefit to celebrate the colony, which completed its first season in September, honored both the late, legendary journalist David Halberstam and the Nobel winner Toni Morrison with achievement awards, and was hosted by New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin.
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Trillin kept the evening light with jokes (“They say David Remnick grew up reading The New Yorker, but his dad was a dentist, so I say he grew up reading old New Yorkers”) and introduced the night’s speakers, including co-chairs David Remnick and The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, writer William Kennedy, and the Norman Mailer Writers Colony co-founder (and Mailer’s longtime collaborator) Larry Schiller.
Though the evening was centered around Mailer’s serious commitment to words and free speech, most of the speakers kept the mood buoyant. Morrison told the crowd—which included Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Annie Leibovitz, Don DeLillo, Simon Schama, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Joan Didion—that Mailer gave her the “worst, worst advice” she had ever received as a writer. As she quit her publishing-house job to write full time, Mailer told Morrison: “Don’t write at home—write in a studio or garage somewhere. And never clean it up.” Morrison laughed as she said Mailer might have been a great brain, but he had no idea how a woman and mother would have time to work in a dirty garage.
High schooler Emily Swanagin, who won the Nonfiction Award of the evening, noted that her piece about her parents’ separation and divorce had paid off—they reunited to see her accept the prize.