John Updike on Norman Mailer

The first time John Updike met the late Norman Mailer was in 1964, after a literary function in New York intended to ease Cold-War tensions by bringing together Soviet and American writers.

“[Mailer] came up to me on the street,” Mr. Updike told The Observer in a phone interview Sunday. “It was kind of dark, a little spooky. I’m enough of a rural type to get easily spooked in New York City. He said to me, ‘Are you really John Updike?’ I swore that I was, and he said, ‘You’re so handsome! I can’t believe you’re so handsome.’ He was a visionary, I think, to see this in me. I think he was a bit drunk at the time.”

Keep in mind this took place after Mailer wrote that piece in Esquire where he said Mr. Updike’s writing reminded him of “stale garlic.” Apparently, Mr. Updike didn’t hold a grudge: “I didn’t mind what he said about me,” he said. “I thought it was kind of nice.”