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Norman Mailer, a dissenting view
Pajamas Media ^ | 11/10/2007 | Roger Kimball

Posted on 11/11/2007 2:01:54 PM PST by mojito

...For readers who did not witness his elevation to the role of literary-political culture hero, it is difficult to appreciate the awe with which Norman Mailer was regarded by the literary and academic establishment from the 1950s through the 1960s and into the 1970s. A typical paean is Diana Trilling’s convoluted 1962 essay on “The Radical Moralism of Norman Mailer,” which concludes by comparing Mailer to the prophet Moses “with a stopover at Marx.” “His moral imagination,” Mrs. Trilling assured her readers, “is the imagination not of art but of theology, theology in action.”

Which means … ? Very little, alas, although talk of “theology in action” (as distinct, perhaps, from “theology asleep”?) doubtless sparked interesting vibrations in susceptible souls. As Mailer more or less admitted in what is probably his best-known collection, Advertisements for Myself (1959)—a title that could be used again for his complete works—he was a sucker for mystification: “mate the absurd with the apocalyptic, and I was captive.”

No one combined critical regard, popular celebrity, and radical chic politics with quite the same insouciance as did Mailer. From the late 1940s until the 1980s, he showed himself to be extraordinarily deft at persuading credulous intellectuals to collaborate in his megalomania. Although he modeled his persona on some of the less attractive features of Ernest Hemingway—booze, boxing, bullfighting, and broads—he managed to update that pathetic, shopworn machismo with some significant postwar embellishments: reefer, radicalism, and Reich, for starters. The glittering example of Mailer’s commercial success was obviously the cynosure that many aspiring writers set out to follow: his neat trick was to combine cachet with large amounts of cash....

(Excerpt) Read more at pajamasmedia.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: normanmailer; selfaggrandizingjerk
A long essay, but worthwhile, on Mailer's pernicious influence on our culture.
1 posted on 11/11/2007 2:01:55 PM PST by mojito
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To: mojito

‘“The White Negro” adumbrates practically everything that went wrong with American society under the assault of left-wing radicalism in the 1960s, from the addiction to violence, drugs, pop music, and sexual polymorphism, to the moral idiocy, jejune anti-Americanism, and mindless glorification of narcissistic irresponsibility and extreme states of experience. It was, as David Horowitz notes in his autobiography Radical Son, “the seminal manifesto of New Left nihilism… . In New Left thinking, criminals were only ‘primitive rebels.’” Although many critics took issue with Mailer’s exoneration of violence, the real message of the essay—if it feels good, do it!—was just then beginning to sweep the country with irresistible force. “The White Negro,” along with some of Mailer’s other essays from the late 1950s, represented an important opening salvo in the war on convention, restraint, and traditional morality. This, not his literary accomplishment, was the ultimate secret of Mailer’s broad appeal. Mailer, as Joseph Epstein observed, “was one of the key men responsible for releasing the Dionysian strain in American life.” He promised his readers what they longed to hear: that ultimate, self-centered ecstasy was theirs for the taking. Mailer once said that he would “settle for nothing less than making a revolution in the consciousness of our time.” He did not make the revolution, but he assuredly became one of its most egregious abettors.”

___________________________________________________________________

I read it too, He definitely belongs on the shelf with Tim Leary, Hugh Hefner, William Burroghs and others who basically glorified bad behavior and consequence-free living.


2 posted on 11/11/2007 2:10:12 PM PST by sinanju
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To: mojito

The world would have been better off without him, but I must admit that I got a real kick out of reading “The Armies of the Night.”

It’s unintentionally funny. What a bunch of idiots.


3 posted on 11/11/2007 2:10:26 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: mojito

his views work best if you smoke a lot of dope.


4 posted on 11/11/2007 2:10:50 PM PST by tired1 (responsibility without authority is slavery!)
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To: mojito

For a true measure of the man, I’d love to know more about the fate of his many children and grandchildren.


5 posted on 11/11/2007 2:14:49 PM PST by sinanju
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To: tired1
His biggest achivement in the real world , was getting mounting a campaign to allow a lifer to be released because he was the next literary genius. He of course , stabbed a busboy to death on a new york street. I am also a fan of his writing , but never never forget what he and his lunatic friends unleashed on the public.
6 posted on 11/11/2007 2:15:23 PM PST by fantom
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To: fantom

“His biggest achivement in the real world , was getting mounting a campaign to allow a lifer to be released because he was the next literary genius.”

i recall all too well.

may he get what he has earned.


7 posted on 11/11/2007 2:27:01 PM PST by tired1 (responsibility without authority is slavery!)
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To: sinanju
Wasn’t he the guy who had a retarded child and basically sent him off to be institutionalized and pretended he didn’t exist? Or am I remembering the wrong guy?
8 posted on 11/11/2007 2:31:55 PM PST by DB
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To: mojito
I really don’t think his writing was much more than ordinary. He had trouble creating believable characters other than his stand-in protagonist which was of course himself.

In works like ‘The Executioners Song’, which was engaging, he didn’t have to create characters, he was reporting on real people. Therefore they were automatically believable. He did, had or had done, fairly good research and did not have to invent details or people.

Let’s just say he was not inventive which is the first requirement of a good fiction writer.

But 90% of his writing is unendurable toxic waste.

9 posted on 11/11/2007 2:32:59 PM PST by squarebarb
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To: DB

“Playwright Arthur Miller hid the existence of a son with Down’s syndrome for decades, but then quietly included him in his will weeks before his death.

The playwright committed the baby boy to an institution when he was a week old and cut him out of his life, failing even to mention him in his memoir, Timebends.

The child, named Daniel, now 40, is the son of Miller’s third wife, the late Inge Morath, a Magnum photographer whom he met on the set of The Misfits, when she was taking pictures of Marilyn Monroe, his second wife.

The secret son is the younger brother of Rebecca Miller, the actress and Personal Velocity director, who is married to the actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Quoting friends and family, Vanity Fair magazine suggests that an “appalled” Day-Lewis, who played a disabled person in his breakthrough role in My Left Foot, may have pressed Miller to renew contact with his son in the late 1990s.

Six weeks before his death in 2005 at the age of 89, Miller wrote a will and signed confidential trusts leaving Daniel a share of his estate equal to his other three children – Rebecca, and Jane and Robert, his son and daughter from his first marriage to Mary Slattery.”


10 posted on 11/11/2007 2:36:18 PM PST by sinanju
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To: sinanju

Norman Who?

Oh yeah, that one.

“He promised his readers what they longed to hear: that ultimate, self-centered ecstasy was theirs for the taking.”

He was the self prophasized darling of the glitterati and all his stuff is straight from “Mother Goose Marxist/Relativism for Beginnners 101” ie, the destruction of western civilization.


11 posted on 11/11/2007 2:40:40 PM PST by spanalot
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To: mojito

Here’s a good blog on him: http://www.bloggernews.net/111608


12 posted on 11/11/2007 2:41:41 PM PST by DB
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To: sinanju

Thank you. I couldn’t remember clearly... It wasn’t Mailer.


13 posted on 11/11/2007 2:44:38 PM PST by DB
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To: Cicero

I was assigned to read “Armies of the Night” in freshman English. It was too badly written, so I never finished it. Would you recommend reading it now, for entertainment value?


14 posted on 11/11/2007 2:47:42 PM PST by The_Media_never_lie
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To: The_Media_never_lie

I haven’t read it since it came out, but I remember being highly amused by it, especially the scene when the self-annointed revolutionaries are in the men’s room.

I can think of several thousand books I’d probably want to read first, though. If I read it, it would be to recreate memories of a lost age, like maybe watching “Yellow Submarine.”


15 posted on 11/11/2007 3:02:09 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: DB

No. Did you confuse the child with the father?


16 posted on 11/11/2007 3:10:39 PM PST by 359Henrie (38 million illegals create a big carbon footprint. The real inconvenient truth.)
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To: mojito

So he is a good commie now?


17 posted on 11/11/2007 4:19:29 PM PST by HANG THE EXPENSE (Defeat liberalism, its the right thing to do for America.)
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To: 359Henrie

No, it was Arthur Miller (as sinanju kindly pointed out).


18 posted on 11/11/2007 4:39:50 PM PST by DB
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To: sinanju

Yeah, all those “leaders” of the baby boom generation.

Mailer never got out of the year 1968, and then he helped that killer get free that murdered someone else a couple of months later.


19 posted on 11/11/2007 4:54:09 PM PST by Baladas
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To: sinanju

William Burroughs hardly “glorified bad behavior and consequence-free living”. Have you actually read Naked Lunch?


20 posted on 11/11/2007 4:57:39 PM PST by tundra1946
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To: DB

Reread post, slap down on Mailer. And I thought it was a good one. Must work on my sarcasm.


21 posted on 11/11/2007 5:10:41 PM PST by 359Henrie (38 million illegals create a big carbon footprint. The real inconvenient truth.)
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To: sinanju
...responsible for releasing the Dionysian strain in American life.

Friedrich Nietzsche worshiped at the feet of Dionysus - basically the Greek goddess of "Partying".
22 posted on 11/11/2007 5:18:24 PM PST by tang-soo (Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks - Read Daniel Chapter 9)
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To: mojito
Frankly, I think while the body is still warm, respect for the dead ought to be observed. I am sure Mailer was a leftist to the nth degree. Nevertheless, observations contrary to respectfulness and sympathy for the family should be withheld until a sufficient time has passed.

The left were downright giddy when Jerry Falwell died, and that was disrespectful, too.

Words of criticism have their place, of course, but not immediately following the death of a celebrity.

23 posted on 11/11/2007 5:23:58 PM PST by Recovering_Democrat ((I am SO glad to no longer be associated with the party of Dependence on Government!))
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To: mojito

“...Which means?...”

That Mailer was making it up as he went along. ‘Theology in action’ is another form for ‘reality’ or ‘the real world’. These are the standard qualifyers used by people who don’t have the balls to accept The Word of God as it was handed down.


24 posted on 11/11/2007 5:28:26 PM PST by TalBlack
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To: TalBlack

Norman Mailer was the poster boy for the world liberals created for us. A guy with so-so talent who made hedonism into a religion.


25 posted on 11/11/2007 6:34:25 PM PST by Liberty Wins (Not only does Fred Thompson cut taxes, he cuts tax collectors.)
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To: TalBlack

I think the good wrtier, Tom Wolfe has made some nice sarcastic remarks about Norm’s literary style. Wolfe will be remembered as a better writer if the NY Times ever burns down!


26 posted on 11/11/2007 7:08:28 PM PST by phillyfanatic
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To: mojito

I was amongst the group not terribly impressed by Mailer. From an earlier thread:

It’s been a very long time since I even tried to read any Mailer. The last one I finished was his about the moon launch. It had enough behind the scenes information about the NASA culture and launch event to finish, but his method of making it all secondary to HIM, (ie-Aquarius) was pathetic. Not Armstrong, not NASA, not the moon itself, the only story he really was telling was Mailer. And wasn’t the world lucky NASA was created to provide him a mirror where he could look at himself.

“Ancient Evenings” I tried to read. I made it through about 60 pages before casting it aside. Gibberish from a man who seemed like he was being paid by the word and intended to cash in.

A pre-People magazine “celebrity”. If he hadn’t been such a celebrity he might actually have lived up to the role he imagined for himself. The books might then have been about the stories, instead of just fuel for his ego. I can’t imagine time will be kind to his work or reputation.

27 posted on 11/11/2007 12:36:35 AM PST by tlb


27 posted on 11/11/2007 8:15:12 PM PST by tlb
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To: tang-soo
Friedrich Nietzsche worshiped at the feet of Dionysus - basically the Greek goddess of "Partying".

Dionysos, or Bacchus (if you were of Rome) was a *male* deity. He was often depicted as having the legs and feet of a goat, so could be said to have been "the original party animal"...

the infowarrior

28 posted on 11/11/2007 10:06:56 PM PST by infowarrior
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To: phillyfanatic
Wolfe will be remembered as a better writer if the NY Times ever burns down!

Thomas Wolfe will be remembered as a better writer than Norman Mailer, by anyone with a sense of what makes literature, period... It matters not if the NY Times burns down, gets swallowed whole, or remains standing for a thousand millenia...

the infowarrior

29 posted on 11/11/2007 10:10:58 PM PST by infowarrior
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