Norris Church Mailer

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Norris Church Mailer (born Barbara Jean Davis; January 31, 1949 in Atkins, Arkansas – November 21, 2010 in Brooklyn Heights, New York City, New York)[1][2] was the wife of American novelist, Norman Mailer, and author of the memoir, A Ticket to the Circus, and of several novels.

Before her relationship with Mailer, she had worked several jobs, including in a pickle factory and as a bookkeeper.[3] At twenty, she married Larry Norris having never traveled outside of Arkansas.[3] She gave birth to son Matthew in 1972, and was divorced in 1975. After her divorce, she claimed to have "had a fling" with Bill Clinton.[2][4]

Life with Norman Mailer[edit]

After her divorce, she lived in Russellville, Arkansas, taught high-school art,[2] and wrote about a hundred pages of a novel which she later reshaped into Windchill Summer, and published in 2000. She had read Norman Mailer's biography of Marilyn Monroe and arranged in 1975 to attend a party in Russellville thrown by her former teacher and Mailer's Army buddy Fig Gwaltney.[3] They went to her home after the party.[2]

After he left Arkansas, she mailed him a love poem, which he returned to her, marked up with his compositional criticism.[2] Four months later, having left her job,[2] she moved with his help to a brownstone row house[2] apartment in Brooklyn Heights, and became a model with Wilhelmina Models.[2] She adopted her former married name, Norris, as her first name and took Mailer's suggestion of Church as her surname.[2]

Their son, John Buffalo Mailer, was born in 1978; they married in 1980.[2] Church said she decided to leave Mailer in the early 1990s because of his many affairs, but he dissuaded her. Mailer died in 2007. She published her memoir, A Ticket to the Circus, in 2010, and explained that the title described her life with Mailer, his seven children by his other wives, and her own two children: "Well, I bought a ticket to the circus. I don't know why I was surprised to see elephants".[2]


From 2000 onwards, she had six major operations for gastrointestinal cancer.[2] She died on 21 November 2010, aged 61, at her home in Brooklyn Heights following her eleven-year battle with cancer.[5]



  • Berger, Joseph (November 21, 2010). "Church Mailer, Artist and Ally, Dies". New York Times. Books. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  • Lennon, J. Michael (2013). Norman Mailer: A Double Life. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 1439150214. OCLC 873006264.
  • Witchel, Alex (March 29, 2010). "Norris Church Mailer: The Last Wife". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2018-08-15.