No second acts

I signed up for America Online in the early 1990s, jst as I was reading a new book, "Harlot's Ghost." It featured a curious and interesting female character named Hadley Kitteredge Montague.

And as I first put a toe into the waters of what was for me — and still for most people; bear in mind at this time we didn't have Web browsers or a proper Internet; there was Usenet and services like AOL and Prodigy and BBS options but that was about it — a new and possibly scary world that linked me up via computer, I had second thoughts about using my first name to venture into the unknown.

So I looked around and picked Kitteredge Montague as a secondary name (misspelling it in the process and coming up with "Kitteridge"), then went about using it in "cyberspace." Heh, how quaint. Some people started knowing me only as Kitteridge, or Kitt, which I was amused by because I'd never had a nickname growing up and Kitt conjured up cats, and though I've never owned a cat (allergic) the avatar connection was cute. Then I would occasionally get emails from real people with the last name of Montague or Montaigne and they'd be looking to fill out the family tree and I'd have to break it to them. So here we are, some nearly 15 years down the road. I don't use "Kitt" or "Kitteridge" as much any more, but it's a nice side name to have if I want a little bit of gauze over my identity.

At the end of "Harlot's Ghost," which I've never re-read but which I did enjoy, the promise was that the story (already some 1300 pages) was "to be continued." Though I hardly sat on pins and needles, I did expect that a part two would be coming.

Not any more.

Norman Mailer, who died at 84 today, was a giant in publishing, a man who was as oversize as his characters and who really, truly believed in The Novel. These days we're assaulted with books that are sequels of sequels that aren't even written by the original author any more even if his or her name is on the cover; there's "chick lit" and the literary world — or even reading, real reading — has a quaintness of its own. There was a time when Mailer ruled that authors routinely showed up on talk shows, and their opinions mattered. Mailer was violent and misogynistic and brilliant and obnoxious and everything just about everyone ever said about him. And now he's gone.

Most recently, he was seen creating his own religion in the pages of New York magazine. Well, if nothing else, now he knows the answer.

Meanwhile, I'm left without a part two. Damn you, Mailer!