PEN mourns the death of Norris Church Mailer and honors her life and accomplishments. We extend to the Mailer family our deep condolences, recognizing the part they have played and continue to play in PEN’s work and the calling of literature.

Norman Mailer was a looming figure in PEN’s history, and we remember Norris’s presence at the 2008 PEN Literary Gala when Norman was saluted.

To John Buffalo, Norman and Norris’s son, we extend our heartfelt sympathy. He carries on the tradition of the Mailer name as a generous supporter of PEN’s purposes through his membership in the PEN/Edmont Society and as a visiting writer in our Readers and Writers program.

Below is a statement from Larry Schiller on behalf of the Norman Mailer Center and the Norman Mailer Writers Colony:

The Norman Mailer Center and Writers Colony deeply mourns the passing of Co-Founder Norris Church Mailer today, Sunday, November 21, 2010, in her home in Brooklyn Heights, New York. She died at 10:55 AM. At her bedside were her two sons, Matthew Mailer and John Buffalo Mailer. Besides her two sons, she is survived by her mother, Gaynell Davis, two grandchildren, Mattie James and Jackson Kingsley, and her seven step-children, Susan, Danielle, Elizabeth, Kate, Michael, Stephen, and Maggie. Norris was the wife of late author Norman Mailer who died on November 10, 2007.

Norris recently published a memoir of her life entitled A Ticket to the Circus and is the author of two novels, Windchill Summer and Cheap Diamonds.

She was born Barbara Jean Davis on January 31, 1949 in Washington State and grew up in Atkins, Arkansas. She married Larry Norris in 1969, gave birth to a son, Matthew, in 1971, and was divorced in 1974.

In 1975, she was living in Russellville, Arkansas where she taught high-school art; she had written about a hundred pages toward a novel (which she would later reshape into Windchill Summer,and publish in 2000). She had read Norman Mailer’s biography of Marilyn Monroe, and arranged in 1975 to attend an Arkansas party for him, where she met the author. Subsequently, they dated, had one son who they named John Buffalo in 1978, and were married in New York city in 1980. She took on as first name her former married name, “Norris”, and took Mailer’s suggestion of “Church”, evoking her intensive religious upbringing, as a surname. In later years she attended the Actors Studio and became an actress and playwright. She soon became the artistic director of the Provincetown Repertory Theater, and she continued to develop into an accomplished painter with exhibitions throughout the United States. In recent years, she sat on the board of the Norman Mailer Society, and was co-founder of the Norman Mailer Center and Writers Colony and member of our Advisory Council.

Our thoughts are with Norris’ family at this time, as we remember her life and accomplishments.

Lawrence Schiller
President and Co-Founder