earth.” “Carter could only smile wanly.”rnOnce, when a Hollywood directorrnasked Mailer to write a screenplay forrnHumphrey Bogart, Mailer refused.rnWhy? “He was always turning downrnthings,” said one of Mailer’s wives. “Hernalways felt he would compromise himself.rnHe was so puritanical [!] that hernwouldn’t even do a radio talk show withrnsome actress because he would have tornsay ‘Drink Pepsi Cola.’ His integrityrnwas almost pathological.” After stabbingrnhis wife, Mailer told a magistraternthat it was important for him not tornbe sent to a mental hospital “because myrnwork in the future will be consideredrnthat of a disordered mind. My pridernis that I can explore areas of experiencernthat other men are afraid of. I insist thatrnI am sane.”rnMills quotes Mailer as saying: “Therndevil in me loves the idea of being justrnthat much of a changeling. You can neverrnunderstand a writer until you find hisrnprivate little vanity and mine has alwaysrnbeen that I will frustrate expectations.rnPeople think they’ve found a way of dismissingrnme, but, like the mad butler, I’llrnbe back serving the meal.”rnAnd so Norman Mailer is. This “puritan,”rnwhose “integrity” is “almost pathological,”rnthis wife-stabber whose sanity isrnquestionable precisely because he thinksrnhe’s “sane,” now tries to serve us, of allrnpeople. Madonna. Oh, how right thernGood Book is, specifically Proverbsrn16:18: “Pride goeth before destruction,rnand a haughty spirit before a fall.”rnJohn Lofton writes from Laurel,rnMaryland.rnSusan Sontagrnby Geoffrey Wagnerrnii Side by Side by Sontag” was thernLondon Observer’s headline describingrnan evidently turbulent scene atrnthe last Edinburgh Festival. The comedianrnSimon Fanshawe spotted a famousrncouple hobnobbing hard together—rnphotographer Annie Leibovitz and herrnbosom buddy: “the great critic and writerrnSusan Sontag.” As the Observer’srn”Arts Diary” put it: “Unable to containrnhimself, Fanshawe leapt across to payrnunadulterated homage to Leibovitz.rnThe absurd compliments gushed forthrnuntil Fanshawe finally extracted himselfrnwith a brief nod in the aghast Sontag’srndirection.” Reading this episode, a littlernbell tinkled in the mists of what memoryrnmy mind has left me.rnBack in the early 60’s, I was living inrnan old stone house in Corsica: more particuladyrnin the remote northwestern enclavernof La Balange. This was, and is, arnmountainous area of goat and sheeprnfarmers whose relatives drifted over fromrnle continent of a summer to spend thernday sipping local D’Amiani pastis on thernsquares of tiny villages skewered to thernnearest mountainside by 17th-centuryrnchurch steeples, and to play houle in therncool of an evening.rnThese hill villages, climbing up tornCorsica’s glorious central massif ofrnsnow-capped mountains and dense firrnforests, averaged about 300 somnolentrninhabitants each. As Michelin still putsrnit: in winter, after the French rentee desrnclasses, the population of the island isrn”faible.” It consists, in short, of the veryrnyoung and the very old; “touching” theirrnpensions, the latter perch in their corduroysrnand cummerbunds around thernfountains of this or that old square. Anyrnsudden activity beyond the shooting ofrnwild boar or Marseilles maquereaux {viz.rnpimps) appears undignified in this clubman’srncentury-old preserve. The shepherdsrn—or their sons and daughters—rnmilk their flocks, placing their canrnroadside for pickup by the Roquefortrnvan, to be aged in caves on le continentrnand sold to you and me as the celebratedrncheese of that name.rnPleasantly little notice is taken of thernoutside world, which makes the island arnrefreshing retreat from the likes ofrnMadonna. Tourism is minimal in thesernhill villages, being confined to the beachrnfringes, my nearest then being Ile-rnRousse. It was much nicer than St.rnTropez, and probably still is. Televisionrnhas come but back then there was none,rnnor any cinema, and no indigenousrnnewspaper. For the latter, f^ice-Matinrnsent over an island edition called Mce-rnCorse-Matin. I suspect its circulationrnwas in the low hundreds, aimed chieflyrnat local politicians or (as with us) gangsters.rnHence I was startled one morning tornsee a Honda velo furrowing up throughrnthe heathery maquis in the general directionrnof my house. The occupant ofrnwhat had once been the saddle turnedrnout to be Jose Mattel (almost everyonernin Corsica is called Jose Mattel), stringerrnfor said Nice-Corse-Matin and an oldrnfriend; he appeared in a state of considerable,rnnot to say unseemly, excitement.rn”Susan Sontag est ici,” he gasped.rnI was baffled, and not merely by hisrnpronunciation. I had never heard of thernlady, if such she were, and I fear it was arncommon omission at the time. Josernneeded an interpreter since she couldrnnot speak French, or what passed for it inrnCorsica. So I donned my duds andrnclimbed on the back of my own dilapidatedrnput-put for the 30-minute plungerndown to Ile-Rousse, where I was introducedrnto a discontented, overweightrnwoman with spanielly dewlap cheeks,rnher head encumbered by what thernFrench call curiers, bigoudis—hers pink.rnShe told me in peremptory fashion tornfetch her bags from the port; apparentlyrnher escort, an equally sulky young manrnstrung with cameras like hungryrntongues, could not summon the energy.rnPerhaps he was Corsican.rnI was thus privileged to spend thernmorning running errands for the futurernrecipient of the McArthur Award, plusrntranslating from excruciating French intorndemotic Corse; it was only much laterrnthat I learned of her linguistic ability,rnwhen she was touting for a Nobel an obscurernmfifeZ-European novel she couldrnnot possibly have read, since it wasrncouched in a ruritanian subdialect accessiblernonly to four or five Americanrnacademics; compared with it, the winner’srnIcelandic poetry must have beenrnkindergarten stuff for the explosive experts.rnSontag, it seemed, was merely passingrnthrough Napoleon’s scented island,rnspending the night but making sure, likernhim, of getting her publicity. And so sherndid, as reported in the Mce-Corse-Matin,rnwhose clip of her equine features I stillrntreasure somewhere (she had not gottenrninto the white forelock in those days).rnMeanwhile, the sheer cheek (or toupie)rnof landing on our little backwater andrntreating it as a staging point for personalrnpublicity simply beat the band. Thernidea of deluding a respectable caf’-concrnbarfly like Jose, about five-two in heightrnand ready with his knife, into taking yournas an international celebrity had mernchuckling all the way back to my mountainousrnaristocracy of bleating sheep andrngrunting boar. It still does. Well done,rnSusan Sontag!rnGeoffrey Wagner’s latest book is a novel,rnA Singular Passion. He writes fromrnGrenada.rnMAY 1995/49rnrnrn