Mailer, Norman 1923–
Mailer, Norman 1923–
PERSONAL: Born January 31, 1923, in Long Branch, NJ; son of Isaac Barnett (an accountant) and Fanny (owner of a small business; maiden name, Schneider) Mailer; married Beatrice Silverman, 1944 (divorced, 1952); married Adele Morales (an artist), 1954 (divorced, 1962); married Lady Jeanne Campbell, 1962 (divorced, 1963); married Beverly Rentz Bentley (an actress), 1963 (divorced, 1980); married Carol Stevens, 1980 (divorced, 1980); married Norris Church (an artist), 1980; children: (first marriage) Susan; (second marriage) Danielle, Elizabeth Anne; (third marriage) Kate; (fourth marriage) Michael Burks, Stephen McLeod; (fifth marriage) Maggie Alexandra; (sixth marriage) John Buffalo. Education: Harvard University, S.B. (cum laude), 1943; graduate studies at Sorbonne, Paris, France, 1947–48. Politics: "Left Conservative." Hobbies and other interests: Skiing, sailing, boxing, hiking.
ADDRESSES: Home—Providence, RI. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 299 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10171-0002.
CAREER: Writer. Producer, director, and actor in films, including Wild 90, 1967, and Maidstone: A Mystery, 1968; producer, Beyond the Law, 1967; actor, Ragtime, 1981; director, Tough Guys Don't Dance, 1987. Lecturer at colleges and universities; University of Pennsylvania Pappas fellow, 1983. Candidate for democratic nomination in mayoral race, New York City, 1960 and 1969. Founder, Fifth Estate (merged with Committee for Action Research on the Intelligence Community), 1973. Military service: U.S. Army, 1944–46, field artillery observer; became infantry rifleman serving in the Philippines and Japan.
MEMBER: PEN (president of American Center, 1984–86), American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, National Institute of Arts and Letters.
AWARDS, HONORS: Story magazine college fiction prize, 1941, for "The Greatest Thing in the World;" National Institute and American Academy grant in literature, 1960; elected to National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1967; National Book Award nomination, 1967, for Why Are We in Vietnam?; National Book Award for nonfiction, 1968, for Miami and the Siege of Chicago; National Book Award for arts and letters, Pulitzer prize in letters general nonfiction, and George Polk Award, all 1969, all for Armies of the Night; Edward MacDowell Medal, MacDowell Colony, 1973, for outstanding service to arts; National Arts Club Gold Medal, 1976; National Book Critics Circle nomination, Notable Book citation from the American Library Association, and Pulitzer prize in letters, all 1979, and American Book Award nomination, 1980, all for The Executioner's Song; Emmy nomination for best adaptation, for screenplay of The Executioner's Song; University of Pennsylvania pappas fellow; Rose Award, Lord & Taylor, 1985, for public accomplishment; Emerson-Thoreau Medal for lifetime literary achievement from American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1989.
The Naked and the Dead, Rinehart (New York, NY), 1948, reprinted, Holt (New York, NY), 1998.
Barbary Shore, Rinehart (New York, NY), 1951, reprinted, Vintage International (New York, NY), 1997.
The Deer Park (also see below), Putnam (New York, NY), 1955, with preface and notes by Mailer, Berkley (New York, NY), 1976, reprinted, Vintage International (New York, NY), 1997.
An American Dream (first published in serial form in Esquire, January-August, 1964), Dial (New York, NY), 1965, reprinted, Vintage (New York, NY), 1999.
Why Are We in Vietnam?, Putnam (New York, NY), 1967.
A Transit to Narcissus: A Facsimile of the Original Typescript with an Introduction by the Author, Fer-tig (New York, NY), 1978.
The Executioner's Song (excerpted in Playboy, 1979), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1979, reprinted, Vintage International (New York, NY), 1998.
Ancient Evenings, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1983.
Tough Guys Don't Dance, Random House (New York, NY), 1984, reprinted, 2002.
Harlot's Ghost, Random House (New York, NY), 1991.
The Gospel according to the Son, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
Also author of No Percentage, 1941.
(Author of text) The Bullfight: A Photographic Narrative (with recording; also see below), CBS Legacy Collection/Macmillan (New York, NY), 1967.
The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History, New American Library (New York, NY), 1968.
Miami and the Siege of Chicago, New American Library (New York, NY), 1968, published as Miami and the Siege of Chicago: An Informal History of the American Political Conventions of 1968, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1969.
Of a Fire on the Moon (first appeared in Life), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1970, published as A Fire on the Moon, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1970.
King of the Hill: On the Fight of the Century, New American Library (New York, NY), 1971.
The Prisoner of Sex (first published in Harper's), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1971.
St. George and the Godfather, New American Library (New York, NY), 1972.
Marilyn: A Biography, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1973, with new chapter, Warner (New York, NY), 1975.
The Faith of Graffiti (also see below), photographs by Jon Naar, Praeger (New York, NY), 1974, published as Watching My Name Go By, Matthews Miller Dunbar (London, England), 1974.
The Fight, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1975, reprinted, Vintage International (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor and author of introductions) Genius and Lust: A Journey through the Major Writings of Henry Miller, Grove (New York, NY), 1976.
Of a Small and Modest Malignancy, Wicked and Bristling with Dots (essay; also see below), Lord John (Northridge, CA), 1980.
Huckleberry Finn: Alive at One Hundred (criticism), Caliban Press (Montclair, NJ), 1985.
How the Wimp Won the War, Lord John (Northridge, CA), 1991.
Pablo and Fernande: Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man: An Interpretive Biography, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1994, published as Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man: An Interpretive Biography, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.
The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.
Why Are We at War?, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.
The Deer Park: A Play (two acts; adaptation of novel The Deer Park; produced Off-Broadway, 1967; also see below), Dial (New York, NY), 1967.
Wild 90 (screenplay; adapted from Mailer's play The Deer Park), Supreme Mix, 1967.
Beyond the Law (screenplay), Supreme Mix/Evergreen Films, 1968.
Maidstone: A Mystery (screenplay; includes essay "A Course in Filmmaking"), New American Library (New York, NY), 1971.
The Executioner's Song (screenplay; adapted from book by Mailer), Film Communication Inc. 1982.
Tough Guys Don't Dance (screenplay), Zoetrope, 1987.
Strawhead (play), first produced in New York, NY), 1985.
Also author of screenplay for a modern version of King Lear.
The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster (essays; includes "Communications: Reflections on Hipsterism;" "The White Negro" first published in Dissent magazine, summer, 1957; also see below), City Lights (San Francisco, CA), 1957.
Advertisements for Myself (short stories, verse, articles, and essays, with narrative; includes "The White Negro," "The Man Who Studied Yoga," and "The Time of Her Time"), Putnam (New York, NY), 1959, with preface by Mailer, Berkley (New York, NY), 1976.
The Presidential Papers (also see below), Putnam (New York, NY), 1963.
Cannibals and Christians (also see below), Dial (New York, NY), 1966, abridged edition, Panther (New York, NY), 1979.
The Short Fiction of Norman Mailer (also see below), Dell (New York, NY), 1967.
The Idol and the Octopus: Political Writings on the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations (includes selections from The Presidential Papers and Cannibals and Christians), Dell (New York, NY), 1968.
The Long Patrol: Twenty-five Years of Writing from the Work of Norman Mailer, edited by Robert F. Lucid, World (New York, NY), 1971.
Existential Errands (includes The Bullfight: A Photographic Narrative with Text by Norman Mailer, "A Course in Filmmaking," and King of the Hill; also see below), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1972.
Some Honorable Men: Political Conventions 1960–1972 (narratives), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1976.
The Essential Mailer (includes The Short Fiction of Norman Mailer and Existential Errands), New English Library (London, England, 1982.
Pieces and Pontifications (essays and interviews; includes The Faith of Graffiti and Of a Small and Modest Malignancy, Wicked and Bristling with Dots), edited by Michael Lennon, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1982, published as Pieces, 1982, published as Pontifications: Interviews, 1982.
The Time of Our Time, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.
Deaths for the Ladies and Other Disasters: Being a Run of Poems, Short Poems, Very Short Poems, and Turns of Prose, Putnam (New York, NY), 1962, with introduction by Mailer, New American Library (New York, NY), 1971.
Gargoyle, Guignol, False Closets (booklet; first published in Architectural Forum, April, 1964), privately printed, 1964.
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (speech), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1967.
Of Women and Their Elegance (fictional interview), photographs by Milton H. Greene, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1980.
The Last Night: A Story (first published in Esquire, 1962), Targ Editions (New York, NY), 1984.
Modest Gifts: Poems and Drawings, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.
Also contributor to anthologies. Author of column "The Big Bite," for Esquire, 1962–63; columnist for Village Voice, 1956, and Commentary, 1962–63. Contributor to numerous periodicals, including Harper's, Rolling Stone, New Republic, Playboy, New York Times Book Review, and Parade. Contributing editor of Dissent, 1953–69; cofounding editor of Village Voice, 1955.
ADAPTATIONS: The Naked and the Dead was made into a film by Warner Bros. in 1958; An American Dream was adapted for film as See You in Hell, Darling, produced by Warner Bros. in 1966. Several of Mailer's works have been adapted as audio books.
SIDELIGHTS: When Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead was published in 1948, New York Times critic Orville Prescott called it "the most impressive novel about the Second World War that I have ever read." Drawing on its author's experiences in the Pacific theater during World War II, the large, ambitious book was number one on New York Times best-seller list for eleven consecutive weeks and the object of continuing critical admiration. Mailer, then a twenty-five-year-old literary novice, was suddenly famous and at the dawn of a prolific career in which he would loom as one of the major U.S. writers of the twentieth century. He would also continue to be measured by others as well as by himself against his 1948 success. "I had the freak of luck to start high on the mountain, and go down sharp while others were passing me," Mailer later wrote in his 1959 autobiography Advertisements for Myself.
In the years that followed his first success, Mailer became absorbed in proving his talent as a writer by composing that one "great" book and with developing what some would consider a notorious public personality. While living in New York City, he became part of a circle of prominent cultural figures that drew him increasingly into the public profile. In later years, as cofounding editor of Village Voice and as a regular contributor of nonfiction to Voice, Dissent, and Esquire, Mailer found an effective arena for his combative ego. Particularly in his nonfiction writing, in which he directly engaged contemporary issues in his own distinctive voice, Mailer's persona as public gadfly was most effectively exploited. His provocative self-portrait as philosophical "existentialist" and political "left conservative" ensured that his own personality was a continuing stage for dramatic conflict.
After publishing his second book, Barbary Shore, to generally unenthusiastic reviews, Mailer conceived an ambitious cycle of eight novels centering on a universal mythical hero he named Sergius O'Shaugnessy. The short story "The Man Who Studied Yoga" was designed as a prologue to the series, and The Deer Park, published in 1955, was to be its first installment. Three years in the making, The Deer Park, which Mailer later adapted for the stage, also proved to be the cycle's only volume. Primarily because of the work's overt sexuality, Mailer's original publisher refused to publish the novel, which is a study in the powers of art, sex, and money in a hedonist resort in southern California. Eventually published, The Deer Park earned mixed reviews, with Brendan Gill asserting in New Yorker that "Only a writer of the greatest and most reckless talent could have flung it between covers."
Mailer published An American Dream in 1965. The story of a prominent professor of existential psychology who murders his wealthy wife, the novel was a great commercial success, albeit the object of intense critical controversy. Elizabeth Hardwick described it in Partisan Review as "a very dirty book, dirty and extremely ugly," while John Aldridge, in Life, called it "a major creative breakthrough." The protagonist of An American Dream, Stephen Rojack, is loosely modeled after Mailer himself, reflecting the novelist's tendency to incorporate autobiographical elements within his fiction.
Another self-portrait appears in The Armies of the Night, a literary triumph that redeemed Mailer in the eyes of critics who were convinced he had squandered his talents in playing the part of a national celebrity. In this book, an account of a demonstration against the Vietnam War staged in front of the Pentagon in the fall of 1967, Mailer's artistic skills and his compulsive in volvement in the event merge, creating a work that is more than just insightful reportage of a momentous phenomenon. The Armies of the Night, which won both the Pulitzer prize and the National Book Award in 1969, comically inflates Mailer's role in the proceedings to create both a bracing portrait of individual orneriness shown against a backdrop of mass social tyranny and a meditation on the relationship between self and history. Richard Gilman's review in New Republic applauded "the central, rather wonderful achievement of the book, that in it history and personality confront each other with a new sense of liberation."
Another autobiographical nonfiction work, Miami and the Siege of Chicago contains fresh observations of 1968, but lacks the rich conjunction of incident and personal style found in The Armies of the Night. Mail er's account of the 1972 national political conventions, St. George and the Godfather, was not nearly as suc-cessful as his earlier nonfiction novels. The whimsically titled novel Why Are We in Vietnam?, a disc jockey's violent, vulgar narrative of a bear hunt in Alaska, is an ostentatiously inventive allegory of American foreign policy.
Though Mailer had studied engineering at Harvard University, he gained a reputation as a scourge of modern technology. Nevertheless, Life magazine commissioned him to write a book about the first moon landing in July, 1969. Published in 1970, Of a Fire on the Moon is the product of months spent in Houston and Cape Canaveral, Florida, and in technical research into the space program. The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), wary of the celebrated author's antibureaucratic attitudes, denied him access to the astronauts themselves. Calling himself "Aquarius," Mailer characteristically includes himself as one of the book's main characters, this time at odds with the triumphant antisepsis of the technocrats. "I liked the book in a lot of ways," Mailer later told New York Times Book Review, "but I didn't like my own person in it—I felt I was highly unnecessary." Depressed over the collapse of his fourth marriage, Aquarius confesses in Of a Fire on the Moon that "he was weary of his own voice, own face, person, persona, will, ideas, speeches, and general sense of importance."
In 1970 Mailer found himself portrayed as the archetypal male chauvinist pig in Kate Millett's groundbreaking feminist study Sexual Politics. In response, he participated in a debate on feminism at New York's Town Hall and authored The Prisoner of Sex, which, when first published in Harper's, resulted in the largest sales of any issue in the magazine's history, as well as in the departure of the magazine's editorial staff, who took objection to the work's offensive language. The Prisoner of Sex is one of several chapters in Mailer's continuous obsession with sexuality, along with his meditation on Marilyn Monroe in Marilyn and Of Women and Their Elegance. Praising The Prisoner of Sex as "Mailer's best book," New York Times critic Anatole Broyard declared: "What Mailer has tried to do here is write a love poem." Gore Vidal disagreed in New York Review of Books, "There has been from Henry Miller to Norman Mailer to Charles Manson a logical progression." Vidal's cutting remark not surprisingly ignited a sensational public feud between the two novelists.
Mailer attracted further public controversy when he successfully petitioned the Utah State Prison parole board to release Jack Henry Abbott, for whose book, In the Belly of the Beast, he had helped find a publisher. One month after leaving prison, Abbott killed another man, and Mailer was again sparring with the press. Mailer had first met Abbott while conducting exhaustive research for The Executioner's Song, a self-described "true life novel" about the life and death of Gary Gilmore, who, on January 17, 1977, became the first convict to be executed in the United States in more than a decade. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the work is the patient self-effacement of its author. Gone from The Executioner's Song are the familiar "Mailerisms:" the baroque syntax, the hectoring tone, the outrageous epigrams, the startling bravura imagery, the political/metaphysical digressions, the self-conscious presence of the author in every line. Instead, Mailer's prose assumes the coloration of its huge cast of characters lawyers, policemen, doctors, journalists, relatives, friends, and victims of Gary Gilmore and immerses the reader in the alarmingly ordinary world of its main character.
Mailer's characteristic intoxication with grandiose ideas, his delight in stylistic flourishes, and his preoccupation with sex and violence are again on display in Ancient Evenings. George Stade in New Republic called Ancient Evenings "a new and permanent contribution to the possibilities of fiction and our communal efforts of self-discovery." In contrast, Benjamin DeMott dismissed it in New York Times Book Review as "pitiably foolish in conception" and "a disaster." Mailer characteristically taunted his critics with a full-page advertisement for Ancient Evenings, juxtaposing scathing reviews of his novel with similar attacks on Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and Charles-Pierre Baudelaire's Les fleurs du mal.
During the 1980s Mailer positioned himself in the role of elder statesman of American letters. The feistiness was still there, but the aging enfant terrible was growing perceptibly more mellow and even courtly. After seven years in the making, Mailer's 1,310-page novel Harlot's Ghost was published in 1991. A study of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its function within U.S. cold war society, the novel was called by New York Times reporter Elaine Sciolino "a glorification of the godless, life-and-death struggle against Communism from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s and the men and women who waged it." Harlot's Ghost features He-drick "Harry" Hubbard, a CIA agent whose mentor in the agency is Hugh Tremont Montague, code named "Harlot." The novel is composed in two sections: the first, "Omega," takes place in 1983, with the discovery of Harlot's deformed corpse on a beach in Chesapeake Bay. The second, "Alpha," weighing in at over 1,200 pages, flashes back to the period between 1955 and 1963 and recounts Harry's investigations into the identity of his mentor's killer. During the flashback, Mailer takes his readers on a trip halfway around the world and gives them a crash course in twentieth-century history.
Critical reception to Harlot's Ghost was generally favorable, except with regard to the novel's length. Suggesting that the work should have ended in 1961, with a description of CIA operations during President John F. Kennedy's Bay of Pigs invasion, Wilfred Sheed added in his review for New York Review of Books: "No doubt to end the book here would be false to the facts…. Still, it would be good for the novel, which after all, is not a perpetual motion machine, but is designed from the outset to go a certain distance, and not a heck of a lot farther. Even a novel about the Hundred Years' War has to end sometime, but Harlot's Ghost runs right over the sides of the frame as the author tries to cram more and more history into a manifestly finite picture." Louis Menand was more critical of the lengthy work, writing in New Yorker that Mailer's ambition has destroyed his art. While praising the author's fearless examination of the Establishment during the 1960s and 1970s, Menand noted that "he has never written a book so flaccid or so unwilling to challenge and provoke as [Harlot's Ghost]. He has set the bar at the highest level, taken a long look, and then walked underneath it." However, reviewer Thomas R. Edwards viewed the work from a different perspective in New Republic, opining that Harlot's Ghost "advances a very imposing ideal of itself as being something like a religious epic, Mailer's Paradise Lost, as it were, in which the cold war would figure as the War in Heaven, the Creation, and the Fall."
Reflective of Mailer's interest in human sexuality as it relates to creativity, 1994's Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man sets out to uncover the inner life of the noted Spanish painter during the first thirty-five years of his life. The work, illustrated with numerous examples of Picasso's artwork, focuses on the erotic aspects of the artist's life, particularly with his relationships with female and, Mailer contends, male lovers.
Portrait of Picasso was met by a strong critical backlash upon its publication. Foremost among the criticism was the author's indulgence in artistic criticism that was either derivative or deemed to be ill-founded. "What is most disturbing about Portrait of Picasso, however, is not its awkward assessment of Picasso's work," contended critic Michiko Kakutani in New York Times, "but its even more awkward attempt to promote the notion that art redeems, that the cruelties and sins of a great artist can be rationalized, excused or glossed over." Francine du Plessix Gray, writing in Los Angeles Times, commented on the author's relative disregard for Picasso's artistic development in favor of an almost voyeuristic obsession with his personal relationships and dubbed Portrait of Picasso "an impassioned, well-meaning, but curiously tentative and wobbly work."
Mailer's fascination with violence, which was given full reign in his earlier writing, resurfaces in 1995's Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery. Mailer's twenty-eighth published book is a journalistic rather than quasi-fictional examination of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, the assumed assassin of President John F. Kennedy. With characteristic obsessiveness, Mailer threw himself into the task of uncovering the truth about Oswald. With the help of investigative reporter Lawrence Schiller, Mailer went to Russia to interview those who had known Oswald for the two years he resided in that country and examine KGB files in the city of Minsk, where Oswald lived between 1959 and 1962.
While praising the workmanlike quality of Oswald's Tale, Thomas Powers contended in New York Times Book Review that by the end of the book, he was unable to be moved by Mailer's portrait of Oswald. "I admire Mailer for his effort to understand Oswald," wrote Powers, "but at some level I feel invited to place a sympathetic arm around the killer's shoulder, and I'm not about to do it…. He brought pain to many and happiness to none. Anger is what this makes me feel." However, John W. Aldridge cited Oswald's Tale as "the greatest body of information on the Oswalds yet attempted." While noting that Mailer's characteristic "sprawling" style might prove off-putting to some readers, Aldridge added that the work presents a clear, well-researched case and leaves the conclusions up to the reader. "That is the primary mission of journalism at its best, and Mailer performs it with all his customary skill and thoroughness, and a quite uncharacteristic determination to keep himself out of the story."
In 1997 Mailer published Gospel according to the Son, a first-person account of the life of Jesus that is closely based on the events described in the New Testament. Mailer said in an interview with New York Times Book Review's Bruce Weber that he considered the project "the largest dare of all" for a writer. Kakutani assessed the novel as just another installment in Mailer's self-centered exploration of fame and infamy. In New York Times, Kakutani compared Mailer's Jesus to Luke Sky-walker and a guest on Opprah Winfrey, elaborating that Mailer had turned both Jesus and God "into familiar contemporary types: he has knocked them off their celestial thrones and turned them into what he knows best, celebrities." A writer for Kirkus Reviews assessed the novel as "generally plainspoken and sometimes plodding," but found its "occasional flashes of Mailer's pugnacious intellectual gamesmanship" praiseworthy. A Booklist critic lauded Gospel for escaping "Mailer's own image" and called the book "a provocatively imagined historical novel."
With his later books, as with his earlier ones, Mailer by turns fascinated and angered critics who contend that his fame has been as much the result of his own self-aggrandizement as his writing talent. "The sour truth," Mailer wrote in Advertisements for Myself, "is that I am imprisoned with a perception which will settle for nothing less than a revolution in the consciousness of our time." Few U.S. writers of the twentieth century had such magisterial aspirations, or such genuine claims to public attention. In his foreword to the critical anthology Norman Mailer, biographer and critic Harold Bloom characterized the writer as "a historian of the moral consciousness of his era, and as the representative writer of his generation." And in London Review of Books, Andrew O'Hagan praised the author for his courage and originality. "Mailer has been as compulsive a literary character as we've had this half-century, but he has also been among the most compelling on the page," O'Hagan contended. "He has wasted much of his talent on money-spinning inelegance, and fruitless meanderings and quests into the mysteries of sex and destiny, but he has also risked and emboldened his talent by imagining himself at the core of things."
One way Mailer managed to keep himself at the "core of things" was through his continued interest in government. His investigation into spy Robert P. Hanssen led to the 2002 publication of Lawrence Schiller's book Into the Mirror: The Life of Master Spy Robert P. Hanssen. In 2003 Mailer's take on the Iraq War was published as Why Are We at War?, echoing back thirty-six years to his novel Why Are We in Vietnam? Why Are We at War? includes segments of interviews, a speech, and other writtings in which Mailer pontificates about America, democracy, and the troubles he sees ahead. Writing in Newsweek, David Gates commented that "Mailer offers a provocative—and persuasive—cultural and intellectual frame."
In celebration of his eightieth birthday, 2003 saw the publication of Mailer's The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing, which contains a variety of the author's writings as well as interviews and transcripts of teaching sessions. Writing in Commentary, Thomas L. Jeffers noted, "Mailer's intent is to provide an 'intimate handbook' for experienced writers who, he thinks, are going to need it in the years ahead. Why? Because, he rightly argues, the serious novel got into trouble as long ago as the 1930s, when our best writers stopped trying to give America what Stendhal had given France or Tolstoy Russia—namely, a picture of an entire society and strategies for 'making it' therein; now." Although Mailer does offer writers some sound advice, such as constructing first-and third-person narratives, the book also contains its opinionated author's take on everything from actor Marlon Brando's performance in the movie The Last Tango in Paris to his views of contemporary novelists. Washington Times contributor Rex Roberts called some of the essays "tired" but also commented that "Mailer's takes on fellow novelists, from Leo Tolstoy and Mark Twain to Saul Bellow and Joseph Heller, remain fresh, full of writerly intelligence." Nathan Ward, writing in Library Journal, noted that "overall this is a book of rich experience that can be read around in with much pleasure and insight." As for novel-writing after age eighty, Mailer told Malcolm Jones in Newsweek that he planned to continue. "I'm not going to talk about that novel, because I'd talk it away. I won't even mention the subject. But I've got about 200 pages written on it, and it'll probably keep me busy for the rest of my writing years—at least. It's as ambitious as anything I've ever tackled. Writing novels is physically damaging. On the other hand, what I have is, you might say, more craft and less smoke."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Algeo, Ann M., The Courtroom as Forum; Homicide Trials by Dreiser, Wright, Capote, and Mailer, P. Lang (New York, NY), 1996.
Alter, Robert, Motives for Fiction, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1984, pp. 46-60.
Amis, Martin, The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America, J. Cape (London, England), 1986, pp. 57-73.
Anderson, Chris, Style as Argument: Contemporary American Nonfiction, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1987, pp. 83-132.
Arlett, Robert, Epic Voices: Inner and Global Impulse in the Contemporary American and British Novel, Susquehanna University Press (Selinsgrove, PA), 1996.
Bailey, Jennifer, Norman Mailer: Quick-Change Artist, Harper (New York, NY), 1979.
Begiebing, Robert J., Acts of Regeneration: Allegory and Archetype in the Works of Norman Mailer, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1980.
Bloom, Harold, editor, Norman Mailer, Chelsea House (New York, NY), 1986.
Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography: Broadening Views, 1968–1988, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 1, 1979, Volume 2, 1974, Volume 3, 1975, Volume 4, 1975, Volume 5, 1976, Volume 8, 1978, Volume 11, 1979, Volume 14, 1980, Volume 28, 1984, Volume 39, 1986, Volume 74, 1993.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 2: American Novelists since World War II, 1978, Volume 16: The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America, 1983, Volume 28: Twentieth-Century American-Jewish Fiction Writers, 1984.
Dictionary of Literary Biography Documentary Series, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 3, 1983.
Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1980, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1981, 1983, 1984.
Friedman, Melvin, and Ben Siegel, editors, Traditions, Voices, and Dreams: The American Novel since the 1960s, University of Delaware Press (Newark, DE), 1995.
Girgus, Sam B., The New Covenant: Jewish Writers and the American Idea, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1984, pp. 135-159.
Glenday, Michael K., Norman Mailer, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Gordon, Andrew, An American Dreamer: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Fiction of Norman Mailer, Farleigh Dickinson University Press (Rutherford, NJ), 1980.
Guest, David, Sentenced to Death: The American Novel and Capital Punishment, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1997.
Kellman, Steven G., Loving Reading: Erotics of the Text, Archon (Hamden, CT), 1985.
Leigh, Nigel, Radical Fictions and the Novels of Norman Mailer, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.
Lennon, J. Michael, editor, Critical Essays on Norman Mailer, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1986.
Lennon, J. Michael, editor, Conversations with Norman Mailer, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MI), 1988.
Mailer, Adele, The Last Party: Scenes from My Life with Norman Mailer, Barricade Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Manso, Peter, Mailer: His Life and Times, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1985.
Millett, Kate, Sexual Politics, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1970.
Mills, Hilary, Mailer: A Biography, Empire (New York, NY), 1982.
Poirier, Richard, Norman Mailer, Viking (New York, NY), 1972.
Rollyson, Carl, The Lives of Norman Mailer: A Biography, Paragon House (New York, NY), 1991.
Wenke, Joseph, Mailer's America, University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1987.
American Spectator, April, 1992, p. 78.
Atlantic, July, 1971; September, 1984; May, 1995, pp. 120-125.
Book, January-February, 2003, James Schiff, review of The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing, p. 74.
Booklist, December 1, 2002, Brad Hooper, review of The Spooky Art, p. 626.
Chicago Tribune, December 20, 1982; September 21, 1987.
Commentary, April, 2003, Thomas L. Jeffers, review of The Spooky Art, p. 68.
Esquire, June, 1966; December, 1968; June, 1986; May, 1995, p. 142.
Gentleman's Quarterly, November, 1996, p. 332.
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"Mailer, Norman 1923–." Concise Major 21st Century Writers. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 16, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/mailer-norman-1923
"Mailer, Norman 1923–." Concise Major 21st Century Writers. . Retrieved November 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/mailer-norman-1923
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