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A Ticket to the Circus: A Memoir Hardcover – April 6, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 Reprint edition (April 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067944
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067947
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,141,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

This candid, entertaining memoir proves that Norman Mailer wasn't the only talented writer in the family. Norris unveils her life story with warmth, wit, and grit, despite some occasionally precious prose. While a few critics were disturbed by Norris's stated willingness to stifle her individuality and ambitions to please her temperamental husband, her frankness in sharing many of the grim and often humiliating particulars won them over, and she provides plenty of juicy details about Norman and his contemporaries. Skimming over his body of work, Norris paints an affectionate, if unappealing, portrait of Mailer as husband and father, and A Ticket to the Circus is a love story, as well as "both guilty pleasure and good read" (Cleveland Plain Dealer).

From Booklist

The sixth (and last) wife of Norman Mailer, Norris Church Mailer, met the late writer in 1975, when she was 26 and he twice her age; they were married for 27 years. Her memoir is, among other things, the story of a series of emancipations: from the constraints of her loving but limiting parents and the claustrophobic moralism of her Arkansas hometown; from her first marriage to a man she quickly outgrew; and from her inhibitions about writing and creating art. And even though this book is very much a love story, chronicling the ups and downs of the author’s stormy relationship with one of the twentieth-century’s gale-force literary personalities, another theme is the author’s complicated emotional emancipation from Norman, precipitated by discovery of his many extramarital dalliances but also perhaps by the simple passage of time. All of this happens amid circumstances that are consistently larger than life: parties with the New York literati, summers in Provincetown, and socializing with Imelda Marcos after a Mohammad Ali fight. There’s even a cameo by a young William Jefferson Clinton. Captivating and often tender, this tale of personal growth also functions as something of a counterpoint to The Last Party (2003), a memoir by Norman’s second wife, Adele Mailer. --Brendan Driscoll

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Customer Reviews

Reading this book Thanksgiving Day broke my heart.
Anna V. Carroll
If you don't know who Norris Church Mailer is, she is the sixth wife of the great writer Norman Mailer.
M Denise C
She has a wonderful way with words and expressing them.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Barry H. Leeds on April 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This remarkable and wonderful book by a remarkably courageous and wonderfully warm woman is a must-read for anyone interested in great loves, bravery in the face of cancer, or Norman Mailer. Norris Church Mailer was Norman's sixth wife and (as she always stated) "the last one." During their "warm and wonderful" (Norman Mailer) and sometimes turbulent thirty-three years together, Norris showed herself to be a loyal and loving wife, a fine mother to two and stepmother to seven, an accomplished teacher, artist, model and occasional actress. She is also an excellent writer, as readers of her two novels, WINDCHILL SUMMER and CHEAP DIAMONDS can attest. This is her best book by far: funny, witty, candid and self-effacing. Now I finally know what "a courageous battle against cancer" means. Above all, this volume is magnetic, engrossing, infused with the fire of a unique personality. I couldn't put it down.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By N. Petrauskas on July 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Usually, I enjoy learning about people I know nothing about (I guess that's why memoirs are my favorite type of literature), but this memoir should have been an autobiography, given the fact that it went on and on and on about every small detail of her life. I can read a good memoir in 2-3 days, but this one dragged on to 7 days of boring, dull reading, to the point that I was skimming from the middle to the end of the book, something I never do.

She had a few interesting tales from her life, but I found that I was often annoyed by her. She seemed constantly obsessed with herself and went on in grand detail about her sex life with her husband, to the point where she put in the letters from Norman Mailer about his desires (she was 26 and he was older than her father by a year... not really Harlequin romance material in my eyes) once he'd leave his wife and be with her.

This could have been more interesting if she'd left out the massive amount of unnecessary detail.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sigrid Olsen on April 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Just when you think this book about the much older Mailer and the younger, beautiful Church is going to play out into a mismatch, there are many surprises...

Norris Church has a big heart, and manages to pull Mailer's family together. Instead of overwhelming gratitude, Mailer, an old man, continues to have affairs, while Church faces a debilitating cancer. Yet, what comes out of this wonderful biography is Church's love for Mailer, his brilliant mind, and their strong physical attraction. I came to admire both--Mailer for his dedication to providing for his family--as she stated, he worked hard to "make a buck" and send the children to good schools. She held down the fort and endured a certain amount of loneliness. He was brilliant and captivating, and, as the author said, she remained in his "thrall," but she was no milquetoast either.

On a personal note, I met Norris Church (and Norman Mailer) when I was a college student at BYU. They were at the Provo City Council to give a short talk about The Executioner's Song for a very small group-- Mailer even read and left the cuss words out of the passage out of respect for "the Mormons," as he put it. She was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. After the talk, my girlfriend and I chatted with Norris, and she could not have been nicer--we were just college kids but I remember her sweetness and her beauty. Reading this book, makes one "fall in love" with both of them despite their flaws...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By mrmiscio on July 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I liked this book overall. It is well written and made interesting simply by the telling of this woman's tale - even had she not married Norman Mailer. I have two major criticisms: Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote a blurb for the front and back covers and I honestly thought, if she is giving this book such a glowing review that says quite a bit and it is worth the read. Then 200 pages into it I find out that she is one of the author's best friends!! In my mind that completely discounts anything she might say about the book on a professional level. My second criticism is that the author seems to take pride in the fact that, of Mailer's 6 wives, she was the one who lasted the longest. It seems to me that the main reason she lasted and the others didn't is that she was willing to put up with his misogynistic garbage. I don't think that is necessarily something to be proud of. Those things being said, I think this was worth the read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Norris Church was a young woman living in Arkansas when she met and fell in love with one of the most famous and talented writers of the 20th century. She writes, "I had never met anyone like him. He was fresh and enthusiastic about every subject, politics and religion being two of his favorites...and he was determined to assert his reputation as the best lover in the world." Thus began her long-term relationship with Norman Mailer, which survived fights, divorces, legal hassles, infidelities, world tours, ex-wives and their children, marriage --- and ended with Mailer's death in 2007. But, thanks to this taut, well-paced memoir, that love --- and the affair it grew out of --- will live on.

Norman Mailer was a golden boy on the literary scene, one of those touched-by-magic geniuses whose first novel (THE NAKED AND THE DEAD) was an instant bestseller, a man whose many books the critics might pan but the readers rushed to buy. He also had a knack for keeping his products flying off the shelves by lecturing and promoting them with verve, at his best in the spotlight. I attended one of his promo-lectures at the University of North Carolina in the late 1960s. Notorious for his use of four-letter words, Mailer's appearance was initially closed to female students, but that ban was later rescinded. So I got in, along with a large collocation of male professors, eager lit students of both genders and some frat boys who came hoping Mailer would wax foul-mouthed. He did not disappoint them; he started the talk with a joke so dirty I am still embarrassed to recall it. And though the laughs were only scattered, he had scored, slipping past the censors and gathering an audience of women to shock (and charm), boys to amuse, and the literati to impress.
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