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Preoccupied with his studies, Katz had gently declined. ” Though the comment seems to be a clear, if minor, expression of the kind of casual misogyny for which Mailer would become notorious, in Katz’s mind it was motivated not so much by an animus toward women as by a persistent and almost overwhelming need to prove his freedom from the restraints of society.
“At [that] point, what became Mailer’s lifestyle was now breaking out around the edges, where he was doing shocking things or saying things that were far out of the ordinary,” says Harold Katz, the writer’s junior-year roommate at Harvard.
Katz had arrived at Harvard from Terre Haute, Indiana, and had become friendly with Mailer through the writer’s freshmen-year roommate, Martin Lubin.
“We were taught in public schools, some adequate some not, and grew up in households that emptied the cookie jar to try pay for our education.” As Mailer’s roommate during a pivotal time, and as someone who called Mailer a friend through subsequent decades, Katz not only came to know both halves of the famous Mailer dyad — the bright, iconoclastic Jewish boy from Brooklyn and the self-conscious, scandal-rousing literary entertainer — but is one of the very few people to watch firsthand as the one developed into the other.
Katz, today a 94-year-oldwho effortlessly quotes Dickens from memory and has a passion for the food scene in and around Tel Aviv, close to where he lives, was approached over the years by a number Mailer biographers and scholars but had refused to give an interview without the writer’s consent, which was never sought or never granted.
Raised as the son of an Orthodox rabbi who’d immigrated from Romania, Katz was in many ways precisely the antipode the young writer needed.
While Katz worked as a waiter and struggled to buy kosher food on a full-ride scholarship (awarded to him by an accountant named Alex Vonnegut, who, in addition to being chair of the scholarship committee of the Harvard Club of Indiana, was also the uncle of a budding fiction writer called Kurt), Mailer was struggling to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior.
Never before had the country been confronted with a crime as heinous as the murder of a child, motivated not by material gain, political ideology, poverty, or passion, but by a perverse act of the will.
The trial that followed was billed as the “Trial of the Century” (as were two other high-profile trials of that period, one of them being that of Sacco and Vanzetti). In 1956, author and journalist Meyer Levin turned the story of Leopold and Loeb into a novel, , Levin developed what he called a “docu-novel,” openly blending fact and fiction in order to explore the moral and psychological dimensions of a true crime, and in the process creating the literary antecedent to the New Journalism of the 1960s and ’70s, of which Truman Capote’s and its author, eventually listing Levin as one of four living writers deserving of the Nobel Prize (the other three were Nabokov, Henry Miller, and, of course, Norman Mailer).
As he chokes her, Rojack imagines he’s straining against an enormous door until an orgasm of violence came bursting with rage from out of me and my mind exploded in a fireworks of rockets, stars, and hurtling embers, the arm about her neck leaped against the whisper I could still feel murmuring in her throat, and the door flew open and the wire tore in her throat.
Disposing of his wife’s body by pushing it out the window of their 10th-floor apartment, Rojack sets off on a spree of violence and sex that culminates in a roof-top confrontation with his deceased wife’s incestuous and sexually abusive father, who tries to push Rojack off the roof.