Malcolm Jones

Stories by Malcolm Jones

  • War Wounds

    Alexandra Fuller remembers precisely the moment that "Scribbling the Cat" got tricky. "I was sitting in the Denver airport three years ago," she said in a phone interview from outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where she lives with her husband and two children. She was reading over a draft of a story that would run in The New Yorker about a white African--an ex-soldier in the Rhodesian Army and a born-again Christian. "The magazine had asked for 6,000 words and already I was up to 30,000, and sitting in the airport I felt sick when it hit me that to tell the story, I was going to have to write about myself the way I'd planned to write about this man." Doing it right, she realized, meant telling the reader, "There's a piece of him that you see as vulnerable and only I saw that piece, because he had decided he was in love with me. And in a bizarre way, it was this love story. Part of me felt true love for him. And part of me was utterly, utterly horrified.""Scribbling the Cat" describes...
  • HAUNTING QUESTIONS

    It's easy to see why Nuruddin Farah's name keeps coming up as a likely recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature. He has the good fortune--from a writer's point of view--of being a native of Somalia, a Third World country whose recent past has been cursed first by dictatorship, then by civil war. Farah himself was persecuted and exiled during the years of dictatorship. But his eligibility for the Nobel is much more than circumstantial. He has turned not just his hard life but the life of his native country into the heart of his fiction. His books debate the great themes--people versus the state, clan versus nationality, family versus the individual--just the sort of writing that stirs the hearts of those high-minded judges in Stockholm. Just the kind of book that usually puts you to sleep by the second chapter. And that's the noteworthy thing about Farah. His strange and compelling books don't just keep you awake. They haunt you."Links" (336 pages. Riverhead Books), Farah's ninth...
  • A BLEAK BOOK YOU CAN'T PUT DOWN

    It's easy to see why Nuruddin Farah's name keeps coming up as a likely recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature. He had the good fortune--from a writer's point of view--of being a native of Somalia, a Third World country whose recent past has been cursed first by dictatorship, then by civil war. But his eligibility for the Nobel is much more than circumstantial. His books debate the great themes of people versus the state, clan versus nationality, family versus the individual. It's just the sort of writing that stirs the hearts of those high-minded judges in Stockholm--and just the kind of book that usually puts you to sleep by the second chapter. That's the noteworthy thing about Farah. His strange and compelling books don't just keep you awake. They haunt you."Links," Farah's ninth novel, begins with one murder and ends with another. No sooner has Jeeblah, the protagonist, disembarked from an airplane at the Mogadishu airport than he sees a man shot dead for no good reason. Quite...
  • THE TWELFTH BOOK OF REVELATION

    Beverly Reynolds got to the Christian Supply Store in Spartanburg, S.C., at 5:30 p.m. last Tuesday. Along with 900 other fans, she was waiting in line to buy a signed copy of "Glorious Appearing," the 12th volume in the "Left Behind" series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins that describes the events leading up to the last days, when Christ returns to earth. The authors, kicking off a 12-city promotional tour, weren't due to start signing until 7 p.m. But while the crowd was patient and polite, everyone was eager to get a book. This, after all, was the installment in which Christ triumphs over Satan and begins his 1,000-year reign over the earth. Reynolds, who has read the whole series, says she had stopped attending church before she read the first novel, "Left Behind," which appeared in 1995. "Nobody wants to be left behind," she says. "When the time comes, I want to go to heaven." When they turned the lights out at Christian Supply that night, the store had sold 1,100 copies...
  • A LOVABLE POOL SHARK

    In an "ACKNOWLEDGMENTS" section at the end of "Something Rising (Light and Swift)," author Haven Kimmel thanks the book clubs that read and discussed her first two books, the memoir "A Girl Named Zippy" and the novel "The Solace of Leaving Early." That made me flinch, because I don't want to think of Kimmel as a writer who has issues that you can dissect and parse over jug wine and crackers. The loveliness of "Something Rising" has nothing to do with talking points and everything to do with making the acquaintance of Cassiopeia Claiborne, a young woman growing up in Indiana, "the daughter of a great romance, if what was meant by romance was wreckage," and a woman who, as she puts it with typical directness, plays pool for money. Having a group discussion about Cassie would, as far as I'm concerned, be like arguing the merits of your new best friend. The greatest part of "Something Rising" is just the pleasure of her company.While Cassie Claiborne was still a teenager her mother told...
  • No Master, No Commander

    Avast! the armada of recent books on global exploration and seafaring disaster has swelled far beyond the limits of a mere trend. It is now a genre unto itself. Antarctica's Scott and Shackleton have their own (continental?) shelves. The past month alone has seen books on Magellan, Cook, the HMS Bounty and Russian explorers trapped in the Arctic. Plainly, we can't get enough of mutiny, rogue whales attacking ships or megalomaniacal explorers. The worse the voyage, the better. But if the great explorers were memorable because they were often villainous, hapless and heroic, what happens when the leader of an expedition is a small-minded, paranoid man with no leadership ability? In the case of the U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842, the answer is that we hardly remember it at all.As National Book Award winner Nathaniel Philbrick amply demonstrates in "Sea of Glory," the Ex. Ex., as it was called, was a huge success. It recorded hundreds of new plant and animal species. It charted...
  • Finding Humor In The Crudeness

    Rude, immature, inappropriate--"Vernon God Little," DBC Pierre's Man Booker Prize-winning debut, seems to bring out the schoolmarm in critics. I mean, I'd call it all those things, and I like the book. But the fact is, you're not supposed to write a novel about a Columbine-like school-shooting spree in the barbecue-sauce (nice touch) capital of central Texas--or anywhere else, for that matter. Some things just aren't funny. That truism, though, is one that you just know Pierre would disagree with. Otherwise, we wouldn't have this high-energy, inappropriately--and undeniably--funny novel.When something makes you laugh, you have to ask yourself, why? In the case of Pierre's novel, I think it's because he lets a lot of the hot air out of school shootings. He's not making fun of high-school students who kill other students and teachers. He's savaging all the hollow pieties that get preached by suddenly concerned community leaders and media jackals. Vernon Gregory Little is a teenager...
  • Heading In A Novel Direction

    Anyone who has ever met a famous person knows the feeling: it's weirdly like meeting someone you've met already. So when you meet Jimmy Carter, know this going in: most of what you thought you knew is true. He's polite. He's very smart. He has no taste for small talk. He hews to the discipline of a schedule. An interview with the former president conducted in his office at the Carter Center in Atlanta begins on schedule at precisely 4:45 p.m. and ends exactly an hour later. But watch out, because sooner than later, he'll surprise you. You might think of the ex-president as a Nobel Prize-winning champion of human rights and world health care. Carter, it turns out, thinks of himself first as a professional writer. He's a man with 18 books to his credit, and he's proud of it. "It's my family's major source of income," he says, leaning forward in a two-seater rocking chair. "I never have been on the lecture circuit, I never have been on a corporate board. I don't criticize others who...
  • L.A. Noir, In The Rough

    Lionel Walk, whose nick-name supplies the title for Pete Dexter's dazzling new novel, "Train," caddies at an exclusive Los Angeles country club in the early '50s. Something of a golf prodigy himself, the 18-year-old Train does his best not to draw attention to his talent: to a young black man in segregated America, attention almost always means trouble. He survives by paying close attention to everything around him, even the way a fat man's legs move in his slacks "like children hiding in the curtains." But despite his efforts at invisibility, Train catches the eye of a weekend golfer named Miller Packard, who turns out to be a cop. Train doesn't trust Packard--the first thing he notices is the gun in his golf bag--but when Train gets caught up in a murder investigation, it's Packard who gets him out of harm's way. If you think this is good news, you've never read a detective story.Sure, we've been here before: noir-era L.A., where corruption lurks under the shiny surface. In no...
  • Riffing On The Blues

    One night in 1903, W. C. Handy was standing on a railroad platform in Tutwiler, Miss., waiting for a train, when he heard a man playing a guitar using a knife for a slide on the strings. Handy, who would later write "St. Louis Blues," the first great blues pop song, said he'd never known anything like it. He called it "the weirdest music I had ever heard." One hundred years later, the blues still sounds... not weird, maybe--it's too familiar and ubiquitous now--but still utterly distinct, almost otherworldly. And while it's astonishingly influential--this brainchild of black American musicians has supplied the roots of jazz, rhythm & blues, rock and rap--amazingly, none of this dalliance with other musical forms has diluted the original. In the right hands, the blues retains the same raw, elemental power that startled Handy on that railroad platform 100 years ago. In "Feel Like Going Home," Martin Scorsese's new documentary about the blues, he subtitles the less decipherable...
  • Love, Death And Light

    Everything I do is arduous," Sally Mann says as she coats a glass plate with collodion and ether, just the way photographers did it 150 years ago. "Why do I do that? I don't know. Not because I'm better than anyone else..." Mann has always used unwieldy large-format bellows cameras with 19th-century brass-rimmed lenses, equipment so crude that she uses her hand--the only digital thing in sight--as the shutter. A few years ago, she raised the bar when she began working with these collodion plates, an arcane process that requires coating the glass, keeping it damp while taking the picture and developing it, all within minutes. If you've ever wondered why 19th-century photographs look the way they do--ghostly, but with pinpoint detail--here's the answer. Mann is often told that her methods are completely unnecessary. Lately, though, while photographing American Civil War battlefields, she's stumbled onto an appreciative, if unlikely, audience. "Those Civil War re-enactors know all...
  • Why Didion Is Still Great

    Recently a friend of mine told me that she'd grown tired of reading Joan Didion. Almost immediately, she corrected herself, saying that this wasn't always true, that sometimes Didion still got her excited and that she was such a masterful writer that even the stuff you didn't like was always admirable. I know what she means, though.My friend and I are in our 50s, and there are writers that you start out admiring early in life and somewhere along the line you get tired of them. This is a vaguely embarrassing thing to admit, because I suspect the fault is more mine than the writers'. We are so accustomed, in this disposable culture we inhabit, to be always on the lookout for something new. We take writers we've admired for granted, and if they don't change--or, to employ the odious phrase so common in today's critical parlance, "reinvent themselves"--then we assume they have nothing further to tell us.This is certainly not Didion's problem, but rather, our problem with her. For almost...
  • Midnight Ramblers

    It's not surprising that Keith Richards is the most interesting talker in "According to the Rolling Stones," the band's own oral history and coffee-table photo book. In interviews, he's always been the most thoughtful, the funniest and certainly the frankest member of the group. (Best Keith line here: "I've always thought of songs as gifts that just arrive... I mean, after all, I'm the guy that wrote 'Satisfaction' in my sleep.") What does raise an eyebrow is that the second most interesting person in this book is not Mick Jagger but Prince Rupert Loewenstein, their business manager.Prince Rupert is one of the people (Don Was, Sheryl Crow, Ahmet Ertegun) whose testimony is tossed into the book periodically to break up the round-robin story the band itself tells. He's the one who explains, although not this bluntly, that as their record sales have stagnated, touring on a global scale has become more of a financial imperative, as have merchandising, corporate sponsorship and licensing...
  • Books: The Next Jonathan?

    Word on the literary street is that Jonathan Lethem could be the next Jonathan Franzen. Franzen had his success with "The Corrections," a sprawling literary novel about America. Lethem's new novel, "The Fortress of Solitude," takes an equally big slice out of the American pie. Officially, Lethem's publisher, Doubleday, won't go near such a comparison, although editor in chief Bill Thomas thinks Lethem's book will do well, "and I don't just mean sell well. I mean this book will be read by my son's grandchildren." The most Lethem himself will brag is to say that, until now, "I didn't have the chops or the maturity to do it right," meaning, plainly, that now he does. And he's right. This quasi-autobiographical epic about Brooklyn and black-white friendship isn't perfect, but it's got enough material to keep four or five smaller novels going. The big difference between Franzen and Lethem? Franzen looked down his nose at Oprah. Lethem thinks being a Pennie's Pick at Costco (that would be...
  • Adventurous Spirit

    His name was George Hamilton Milligan IV, but he was better suited to his nickname: Joe. A warm spirit, Milligan craved adventure--sky diving, bungee-jumping, snowboarding and scuba diving his way through life. More than anything, he loved to surf. So the Florida native moved to Australia, where he found the most spectacular waves yet. Highly intelligent but apolitical, he wasn't suspicious of anyone. He never considered the possibility that his surfing jaunts to Indonesia were potentially dangerous. But last Oct. 12, two weeks shy of his 24th birthday, Milligan was one of 200 people who were killed when a car bomb exploded outside Club Sari in Bali. Milligan, who had recently graduated from college, was spending his last weekend in Indonesia with friends before returning home to Orlando. Last month, in memoriam, some 50 friends and family members paddled out to the waters where Joe learned to surf.
  • Love, Death, Light

    "Everything I do is arduous," Sally Mann says as she coats a glass plate with collodion and ether, just the way photographers did it 150 years ago. "Why do I do that? I don't know. Not because I'm better than anyone else... " Mann always used unwieldy large-format bellows cameras with 19th-century brass-rimmed lenses, equipment so crude that she uses her hand--the only digital thing in sight--as the shutter. A few years ago, she raised the bar another several notches when she began working with these collodion plates, an arcane process that requires coating the glass, keeping it damp while taking the picture and developing it, all within minutes. If you've ever wondered why 19th-century photographs look the way they do--ghostly, but with pinpoint detail--here's the answer. Mann is often told that her methods are completely unnecessary. Lately, though, while photographing Civil War battlefields, she's stumbled onto an appreciative, if unlikely, audience. "Those Civil War re-enactors...
  • SECONDHAND PROSE

    Some people check stock quotations to see how their investments are doing. I look at used-book prices online. I've never been a collector, but over the years a few novels that I've hung on to simply because I liked them have, ah, matured in value. I own a couple of Cormac McCarthy hardcovers from the '80s, for instance, that are now worth $1,500 each. My indifference to collecting took a beating the day I discovered those prices online. But what really holds my attention when I visit a used-book site is how little I have to pay for an out-of-print book that I might just want to read. Used hardcovers that I never hoped to find in a local store are suddenly at my fingertips for $10 or less. If I order promptly, that is, because it turns out that I have competition. Last year Americans spent at least $530 million on used books, roughly 5 percent of the $10 billion trade-book market. In this marginally profitable business, where sales have been virtually flat for the last five years,...
  • Murder In The Name Of God

    Jon Krakauer did not setout to write about murder. After publishing "Into Thin Air," his best seller about a 1996 Mount Everest expedition that went fatally awry, he began researching a book about faith, focused on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, America's most successful homegrown religion. "There are more Mormons in this country now than Presbyterians," he notes over breakfast in a New York hotel. "Worldwide, they outnumber Jews." In the course of his reporting he wrote to Mark Hofmann, a Mormon who had lost his faith, turned to forgery and then murder and was serving time in a Utah state prison. "I got a letter back from his cellmate saying, 'Mark won't talk to you, but you should talk to me because I'm the most fanatical believer you'll ever meet'." The cellmate was Dan Lafferty, a fundamentalist Mormon who, with his brother Ron, had been convicted of murdering their sister-in-law and her baby daughter in 1984. They said they'd committed the murders...
  • Something About Harry

    Everyone hates hype, but it was mighty hard to get mad at the hoopla surrounding the June 21 publication of J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (870 pages. Scholastic). OK, there's always going to be a certain level of grumbling when a phenom's this gigantic--one online columnist opined that the Potter books, because they are also popular with adults, only contribute to an increasing "infantilization" of culture. But let's not complicate matters unnecessarily: when any book, especially a novel written primarily for children, outsells the latest blockbuster movie--it sold 9 million copies worldwide the first weekend and made more than the U.S. debut of "The Hulk"--it's a sweet moment, pure and simple.Even behavior that under almost any other circumstances would look, well, crazy--here it just looks eccentric, if not downright charming. In the United States and the United Kingdom, thousands of people turned up at bookstores on Friday night, June 20, waiting for...
  • This Is Mr. America

    Benjamin Franklin, Walter Isaacson tells us at the beginning of his long (but never tedious) new biography, "is the founding father who winks at us." By that, Isaacson explains, he means Franklin is the most human--and most modern--of the men who forged the American republic. We admire Washington, Jefferson and Adams, but they remain creatures of the 18th century. The man we encounter in "Benjamin Franklin" (Simon & Schuster. $30)--funny, pragmatic and self-aware--seems like one of us, or at least someone we'd like to be.Unlike Washington's cherry tree, Franklin's kite was real. His experiments with electricity made him one of the great scientists of his day. He was a middle-class business-man whose success as a printer and a journalist allowed him to retire at 42--and in notably un-Babbitt-like fashion, he devoted the rest of his life to his city and his country. He was the diplomat who persuaded the French to back the American Revolution and the author of the first great...
  • Her Magic Moment

    J.K. Rowling has this thing she does where her head dips down an inch or two into her shoulders and her hands twist the air in front of her, as if she's wringing agony out of the air itself. And that's what she does when you ask her what she thinks of her new book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." "At the moment I'm at the stage when you can only see faults," she says, her hands going in time with her voice. "I rang my sister and said, 'The book's dreadful, it's just dreadful.' She just laughed. I said, 'This is not funny. It is not funny that the book's dreadful.' And she said, 'You've said this on every single book.' I said, 'But this time I really, really mean it. It's just dreadful.' And she said, 'Yep, you said that on every single book.' So she was no help at all." Not to pick a fight in the first paragraph or anything, but we're with the sister all the way on this.On the other hand, who wouldn't second-guess themselves if their four previous novels about the world...
  • An American Classic

    In the sunny kitchen of the apartment shared by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock in Decatur, Ga., lunch has been cleared away. While Peacock prepares banana pudding, a guest has a chance to examine the decor. A collection of rolling pins lines one wall. An old-fashioned scale sits on top of a pie safe. But the most surprising element is what's not there. No food processor, no La Cornue stove or Sub-Zero refrigerator. When Peacock makes meringue for the pudding, he whips it with a whisk. "Southern food is essentially very simple," he says. "There are no drizzled leeks or tortilla strips to hide under. It's either well done or it's not." Judging by the catfish stew, cornbread and fig preserves served at lunch, these two have nothing to hide.Peacock and Lewis make an odd couple--an 87-year-old African-American woman in failing health and a 40-year-old white man. She's quiet, he's voluble. She's one of the most celebrated cooks alive, winner of the Grande Dame Award of Les Dames d'Escoffier...
  • The Man Of The Moment

    When Henri Cartier-Bresson saw me pull out my notebook, he asked in mock horror, "Are you from the police?" I said no, I would make a very poor policeman, and he smiled. Mindful of his distaste for interviews, I went on, "I know you don't like questions--" but he cut me off. "Why not? There are no answers." I started to see why journalists who have wangled interviews with the 94-year-old grandmaster of photography have come to regret it.We were sitting in the Paris apartment he shares with his wife, the photographer Martine Franck. It was a rainy Easter Sunday, the day he'd picked for the interview because he is "an anarchist"--a word he uses to suggest his impudent disregard for propriety. We sat by the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Tuileries, the Louvre and the Seine. Monet and Cezanne used to sketch this view from the apartment below. Cartier-Bresson sketches it now. But he does not photograph it. For the last 30 years, he has only rarely touched a camera, preferring...
  • &Quot;There Is A Legend. And To Protest Is Daft.&

    Barbara Hershey, his co-star in "The Stunt Man," put it best. "When you meet Peter O'Toole," she once said, "he does not disappoint." But how can this be true? Here, after all, is the actor who first strode into the public imagination in 1962 as the impossibly dashing "Lawrence of Arabia." This is the man who found a way to be both swashbuckling and hilarious in "My Favorite Year" and held his own at scenery-chewing with no less than Katharine Hepburn in "The Lion in Winter." In "The Ruling Class," he convinced us that he was Christ--and Jack the Ripper. And off-screen and off-stage he's engaged in enough drinking and carousing to keep tabloid editors happy for nearly half a century. How could a mere man ever hope to live up to a legend that's larger than larger than life?Somehow he manages. True, he's a bit shorter, time and age having whittled an inch or two off that original 6-foot-3 frame. Otherwise, when he makes his appearance on a bitter February day in London, it's all there...
  • Cool Eye, Cool Tales

    When you ask George Pelecanos what he likes about writing scripts for "The Wire," the highly praised HBO crime drama, he talks about studying film in college and how the chance to write scripts for an actual show was just too good to turn down--never mind that he has an increasingly hot career as a crime novelist. Then he mentions the word "access," and for the first time his voice takes on real excitement. But he's not talking about access to stars or producers. "You know when you're driving along the highway and you see some old chained-up building or factory or dock area, and you think, 'That looks interesting.' But it's off-limits--you couldn't get in if you wanted to. Well, working on this show, I have access." Access to the derelict Baltimore docks where the show is filming its second season. Access to laid-off longshoremen and their lore, like how they used to use wooden shovels to load grain because a metal shovel might strike a spark and burn the whole shipment. Pelecanos...
  • That Other Gulf War

    Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. That same day, Marine Cpl. Anthony Swofford's platoon of scouts and snipers was put on standby at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base in the Mojave Desert. A week later they shipped out for Saudi Arabia. But before shipping out, Swofford reports in his honest, ugly gulf-war memoir, "Jarhead," they rented every Vietnam War movie they could find."There is talk that many Vietnam films are antiwar," he writes, "that the message is war is inhumane and look what happens when you train young American men to fight and kill." Swofford disagrees. "Vietnam War films are all pro-war, no matter what the supposed message, what Kubrick or Coppola or Stone intended." Civilians may weep at the films' murderous inhumanity, but soldiers "are excited by them, because the magic brutality of the films celebrates the terrible and despicable beauty of their fighting skills... Filmic images of death and carnage are pornography for the military man." It doesn't matter...
  • Photography: Picture Perfect

    It's not the whole truth, but a good part of the reason William Henry Fox Talbot became one of the fathers of photography was that he could not draw well. Talbot (1800-1877) grew up at a time when people sketched picturesque spots on their travels. This upper-class Englishman became so frustrated on his honeymoon at his lack of artistic skill, so the story goes, that he threw himself into developing a process whereby waterfalls and mountain vistas might be recorded mechanically. The result, a decade or so later, was the positive-negative process that Talbot called "photogenic drawing"--and we call photography. Unlike the work of his competitors, such as Daguerre, Talbot's photographs could be reproduced again and again. Think of them as the baby pictures of mass culture.If Talbot, a member of Parliament who also translated Egyptian hieroglyphics and Assyrian cuneiform script, lacked the dexterity necessary to produce a decent drawing, he certainly possessed an artist's eye. That's...
  • Better Than Ever

    No one has seen the original two-and-a-half version since 1927, the year it was released. Ufa, the German studio that bankrolled the film, cut a half hour out of the original eight months after it debuted. The American version was not just cut but re-edited with a completely different story line. Since the '20s, various versions have appeared in various countries. Crucial scenes in a version that surfaced in, say, Australia might not turn up in any other version. Footage supposedly lost forever would appear in archival vaults in East Germany. In 1984, the disco producer Giorgio Moroder issued a version with a techno soundtrack fleshed out with vocals by the likes of Pat Benatar and Adam Ant. So, which version did you see?Whatever you saw, you probably didn't walk away unaffected. Even a shredded version of "Metropolis" is still capable of awing the most sophisticated modern viewer (not least because this futuristic fantasy is so prescient about the future--not a few of the designs...
  • Back To The Future

    If we think of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 at all, it is probably as fodder for some television quiz-show question: what do the Pledge of Allegiance, shredded wheat, the Ferris wheel and historian Frederick Jackson Turner's "closing of the frontier" speech have in common? (Answer: they all made their debuts there.) At the time of its creation, though, the fair was anything but trivial. France had wowed the world with its fair in 1889, at which Alexandre Gustave Eiffel unveiled his tower. The Chicago fair, timed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's voyage, would be America's chance to prove that, technologically and culturally, it could eat at the grown-ups' table. The fair's directors gambled everything. And they won, seducing the world with the architecture of Louis Sullivan and the technology of Edison. But as Erik Larson shows so entertainingly in "The Devil in the White City," it almost didn't happen.Bad weather, a national depression and the deep-seated scorn...
  • 'More Craft, Less Smoke'

    "The Spooky Art," Norman Mailer's book about writing, appears on Jan. 31, his 80th birthday. Since his debut novel, "The Naked and the Dead" (1948), Mailer has written 31 more books. He has won the Pulitzer Prize twice. He has directed four films and written 10 screenplays. He has been married six times and has nine children. He was once arrested for stabbing his second wife. He ran for mayor of New York twice. He has arthritis in his knees and sometimes walks with two canes. With his wife, the artist and novelist Norris Church Mailer, he lives in a brick house beside the ocean in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he recently sat down for an interview with NEWSWEEK's Malcolm Jones. He does not like interviews. Excerpts:JONES: Can you say a little about the novel you're working on?MAILER: I'm not going to talk about that novel, because I'd talk it away. I won't even mention the subject. But I've got about 200 pages written on it, and it'll probably keep me busy for the rest of my...