J. Michael Lennon is Emeritus Vice President for Academic Affairs and Emeritus Professor of English at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. In addition to being chair of the editorial board of The Mailer Review, he has written or edited several books about and with Mailer.
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Interviewer: Well, then, what can ruin a first-rate writer?
Mailer: Booze, pot, too much sex, too much failure in one's private life, too much attrition, too much recognition, too little recognition, frustration. Nearly everything in the scheme of things works to dull a first-rate talent. But the worst probably is cowardice—as one gets older, one becomes aware of one's cowardice, the desire to be bold which once was a joy gets heavy with caution and duty. And finally there's apathy. About the time it doesn't seem too important any more to be a great writer, you know you've slipped far enough to be doing your work now on the comeback trail.