Mailer Goes Jogging with Ali

Thu Nov 15, 2007

That night he and I had dinner and he told me what had happened. He had kept up with Ali for a couple of miles into the country upriver from the compound at N’Sele, but then he had begun to tire, and finally he stopped, his chest heaving, and he watched Ali disappear into the night with his sparring partners. In the east, over the hills, the African night was beginning to give way to the first streaks of dawn, but it was still very dark. Suddenly, and seemingly so close that it made him start, came the reverberating roar of a lion, an unmistakable coughing, grunting sound that seemed to come from all sides—just as one had read it did in Hemingway or Ruark—and Norman turned and set out for the distant lights of N’Sele at a hasty clip. He told me he had been instantly provided with a substantial “second wind” and he found himself moving along much quicker than during his outbound trip. He reached N’Sele safely, jogging by the dark compounds, exhilarated not only by his escape but by the irresistible thought of how highly dramatic it would have been if he hadn’t made it.

George Plimpton, “The Last Laugh”, New York Review, (August 4, 1977).

I also recommend Terry Southern’s contribution.