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Fans of Norman Mailer will soon have a chance to own a piece of the scrappy scribe — or at least his jukebox, books and other possessions that crowd his Brooklyn Heights home.
The literary lion’s nautical-themed crib on Columbia Heights near Pineapple Street is on sale for a cool $2.5 million — but also on the market are decade’s worth of objects that fill the walk-up, where Mailer completed his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Executioner’s Song” in 1979.
Mailer’s offspring — nine surviving children from his six wives — will soon decide what they want to keep, according to his son Matthew Mailer, 39, a Fort Greene screenwriter.
The rest of the booty will be offered to the home buyer — for an added fee — or be a part of an estate sale. Mailer’s hundreds of books alone are worth a small fortune.
“The library is something we are probably going to sell — this is something a lot of people are interested in,” Mailer said, adding that the family intends to keep the signed, first edition copies of his father’s works.
It’s unclear what else in the home — a teak-roofed ship’s bridge with staggering view of the Manhattan skyline — the Mailer siblings will covet.
A 1960s-era jukebox — a sweet gift from Mailer to Norris Church, Matthew’s mother and Mailer’s sixth wife — stands at the ready (once fixed) to play songs such as “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley or “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” by Fats Waller.
Other choice items include African masks that Mailer brought back from Zaire after covering George Foreman and Muhammad Ali’s famous “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974; a frame containing a picture of Marilyn Monroe — a frequent Mailer muse — and a button from his mayoral bid in 1969 that reads: “I would sleep better if Norman Mailer were Mayor;” Mailer’s desk itself, though that item has already been claimed by Susan Mailer, the eldest child.
“I’d take a lot of this stuff, but I just don’t have the space,” Matthew Mailer said. “It’s not practical, but I wish I could store it all in a time capsule.”
Mailer said the items in the house have yet to be appraised.
“For someone who was a fan, you can’t really put a price tag on them,” he added.
The home includes multi-level loft spaces, designed by Mailer to resemble a ship’s galleys.
“It’s a great party pad,” the son said.
The house has been on the market just 10 days and has already been receiving keen interest, according to Dolores Grant, a broker for the Corcoran Group who also lives in the building.
“The uniqueness of the space, the different ways that you can utilize it, the light it receives, the view, and the balcony are all very special,” she said.
Book experts said the value of library could vary wildly, depending on condition, edition, and whether or not Mailer’s signature is inside any of the books.
“It would depend on what’s in the library — if you have a crappy book, it’s not going to be valuable because he owned it,” said Arnold Greenberg, owner of the Complete Traveller Antiquarian Book Store in Manhattan.
Autographed, first-edition Mailers are another story.
The most expensive Mailer on eBay is a signed, first-edition copy of “The Executioner’s Song,” with a price tag of $1,500.
But the Mailer clan may face stiff headwinds, as the Great Recession has produced a sustained buyer’s market for collectibles.
“At the moment, everyone is selling, and no one is buying,” said Rachel Leibowicz, owner of Circa Antiques on Atlantic Avenue near Bond Street. “People are downsizing, and everyone has his mother’s or father’s things.”
True, but not everyone’s father was one of the most acclaimed writers of the 20th century. Mailer wrote more than 40 books, including 11 mega-novels, and is considered one of the originators of “New Journalism,” a nonfiction style that elevates reportage into an art form. He chronicled celebrities — and was one himself.
He was also controversial, stabbing his second wife Adele Morales with a penknife in 1960 and nearly killing her. Mailer died in 2007 at the age of 84.
“If you’re famous enough, part of the value is that alone,” Leibowicz said. “But I’m not sure how many young folks know about Mailer. I remember ‘Armies of the Night’ when I was in college — but that was a long time ago.”
Or, as Kurt Vonnegut might say, so it goes.
Norman Mailer’s house [142 Columbia Heights near Pineapple Street in Brooklyn Heights] is viewable by appointment through the Corcoran Group.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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