I read this quote recently, attributed to Norman Mailer, that has had my brain itching:

Alimony is the curse of the writing class.

What did he mean by it?

  • Could we make random inferences without the support of the writer's context? Was Mailer really into an alimony case? Was he speaking about himself, for that matter?
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 4:40
  • That's what i'm asking @Kris. I couldn't find the context of this quote. Just a LOT of hits for the quote itself.
    – Ramy
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 5:29
  • 2
    TJ Smith wrote: 'After six wives he also said "Alimony is the curse of the writing class."' in his blog at teejaysmith.blogspot.com/2011/05/norman-mailer.html which suggests @Lauren Ipsum could be right.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 10:07

3 Answers 3


Roughly speaking, it means if you have to pay alimony, you have to earn money. Writing is not a way to earn money (for most of us). He's suggesting that it's insufficient income for an alimony payment, so a writer would have to take on some other work to earn enough money to make the payment, thus cutting into writing time.

Of course, you do have to suffer to write, so maybe it's a blessing in disguise. ;)


Personally, and without any reference to support it, I've always believed the quote meant that those dedicated to a writing career often cannot also effectively support a long-term, committed relationship. Which leads to divorce. And alimony.

Hence the curse. And Kris' reference from TJ Smith citing Mailer's six wives seems to confirm he suffered from it.


That if you take a writing class you'll want to become a writer, and your wife will leave you. Worse still, as a writer you won't make enough money to afford the alimony. [That last part is subtle, if money were not scarce than paying it wouldn't be so much a problem]

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