20 April (1965): Norman Mailer to Edmund Skellings

Here, Norman Mailer writes Edmund Skellings an unconventional thank you note, half insult and half wordplay, expressing his appreciation for Skellings’ hospitality during his recent trip to Alaska. Skellings, who lived in Fairbanks and established the Alaska Writer’s Workshop at the university there, hosted Mailer for the university’s 1965 Festival of Arts.

April 20, 1965

Well now listen, God’s little flutings, I heard that Hawaiian harp which passes for your nervous system go wingdinging out into the great North night as I went flying south. What a miserable old mother are you. Anyway, Grellings, which is the groan made by the little skeletal bones of the metatarsal range when the wind passes over a prospector’s unburied sticks, well, Grellings, you were great, even if your name is Edmund. I’ve always preferred Kent, myself, dear viceroy to our own Jew’s Lear (that’s a pun, son). Well I know, Quellings, how much this will all amuse you, but then, after all, Dipsy Dick (another pun, for Deep Sea Dick) (you should breathe so good, you poor-piss excuse for an enlightened wasp) anyway, Dipsy Dick, they might have named you Snellings, Hubert Snellings–pass the catarrh, ma.

Oh well, bless you, baby—as you gather, I had a miserable time and will doubtless get trapped into coming up again. Give my best to Louise. You have a fine wife, old Ed Starling.

This communique is from God’s empty roarings, also known as Chuck Gomorrah.


From Selected Letters of Norman Mailer. Mailer, Norman, and Michael Lennon. New York: Random House, 2014.