Sunday, November 11, 2007

Norman Mailer & Wilkes University

The front pages of both local papers featured a tribute to the life of the great Norman Mailer. I also think it is appropriate because today is Veteran's Day, too and Norman Mailer is a veteran. My creative writing classmate, Joe Cetta was quoted in this one:

Mailer connected to Wilkes through creative writing program
by Heidi Ruckno, The Citizen's Voice (11.11.07)

A close friendship with Wilkes University professor Dr. J. Michael Lennon gave Norman Mailer the opportunity to get well acquainted with Wilkes University.

Lennon, Mailer’s literary executor and biographer, and Dr. Bonnie Culver co-founded the university’s Masters of Creative Writing program in 2004. When they asked Mailer to be on the advisory board, the author accepted the invitation.Lennon and Mailer had been friends for more than 30 years.

The two collaborated on Mailer’s last book, “On God: An Uncommon Conversation.”Mailer was a great friend to the Wilkes community and to Culver personally, she said. He even convinced her a bachelor’s degree was not a necessary requirement for admission into the creative writing masters program.So far, three students without bachelor’s degrees received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, Culver said.

“That’s because of Norman,” she said.

Mailer always believed a writer’s level of formal education had little to do with his or her ability, but his involvement with Wilkes stemmed far beyond that small detail.Mailer visited the university several times as a guest speaker, delivering the keynote address at the inaugural Pennsylvania Writer’s Conference in June 2004. He also started the Norris Church Mailer scholarship fund in honor of his sixth wife, and routinely invited Wilkes students into his Provincetown, Mass. home.

Scranton resident Joe Cetta, 28, a graduate of the creative writing program, visited Mailer’s home during a Wilkes University trip. Mailer was not one to protect trade secrets, Cetta said. He was always willing to share some pointers with aspiring writers.Mailer told Cetta it was best to write now and edit later. The author felt it was easier than censoring before the pen hit the paper.Cetta was grateful for the advice, even though he was never a Mailer fan. Like many others, Cetta had some difficulty with some of the author’s views.

The author had unpopular opinions about feminism and fought to get a convicted killer released from prison.Mailer was brilliant because of the controversy, Culver said. He was never afraid to stretch the boundaries of what is acceptable.“He was never shy about trying something that was going to stretch our imaginations, and that’s the mark of a truly great artist,” she said.


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