When I was in high school, the books of Norman Mailer were off-limits which made them even more attractive. "The Executioner's Song" and "The Naked and the Dead" were probably his two most popular and I didn't get a chance to read them until I was in college.
Mr. Mailer was self-centered and misogynistic; he stabbed his wife almost to her death; he was outspoken in pretty much all arenas of public life; and he was sometimes a brilliant writer. While I can't say I appreciated his books as much as others might, I respect the risks he took in his life and in his work. Some of his books were torn apart mercilessly by critics; definitely some of his personal actions were criticized as well. But in his 84 years, he never compromised and that's something to aspire to as a writer.
Oddly enough, there was only 1 degree of separation between me and Mr. Mailer: I worked as a script supervisor on a film on which his son, Michael, was a producer. There were lots of odd connections on that film: Ali Larter, star of Heroes, was in it as were Robert Redford's daughter, Amy, Dabney Coleman, and the filmmaker James Toback, who is also a misogynist and who dissed me behind me back on the set - to the director! - so I lost all respect for him.
(Getting between the script supervisor and the director is such a bad move: that's a very important relationship that gets reflected back in the editing room and on the film. On the rare occasions that happened with me, the filmmaking definitely suffered - and I refused to work with those people ever again.
Gotta R-E-S-P-E-C-T, ya know what I'm sayin'?)
Your Hollywood connection,
P.S. Head Honcho had a role in that movie too!