Unanswered Questions After 1000 Pages
This is what Norman Mailer's account taught me, but it also shared the motivations and emotions of every person mentioned in the account. The detail of every single aspect was astouding, and exhausting, but never boring.
The detail, while exhuastingly thorough, left two questions for me: 1) Was Gary Gilmore ever molested? and 2) How did Norman Mailer get into every single person's head (and was that part of it truly factual)?
Toward the end of the book, and the end of Gary's life, he is questioned repeatedly about if his mother beat him or who messed him up. He defends his mother vigorously and continuously, but there are psychological results that you can't argue with. He only liked very young girls. He confessed to having a kissing relationship with a 13 year old boy when he was 23. Nicole, his love, was very young looking and he constantly focused on her youthful appearance (calling her "elf").
You don't become a child molester unless you've been abused. (At least that's what Law & Order: SVU has taught me.) But Gary just wouldn't admit to being abused.
But the burning question to me as I read was, "How did Mailer do it?" He talked about people's motivations, secret desires, unspoken thoughts, etc. at every turn in the way. There have to have been at least 50 "characters" whose background information was delved into throughout the course of the book.
Because of Mailer's research and detail, you got a sense of why the players in the story did the things they did, things which I would normally have found to be inexplicable. For a moment, I even thought I understood why Gary killed the men he shot. But really, I still don't understand that part.
I guess for all of the exhaustive detail and background information, I wish Mailer had been able to tell us what really made Gary the way he was. And I wonder if being the son of Houdini's illegitmate son had anything to do with it.