Skip to comments.Norman Mailer, a dissenting view
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 Trillings 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 workshe 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 Hemingwaybooze, boxing, bullfighting, and broadshe managed to update that pathetic, shopworn machismo with some significant postwar embellishments: reefer, radicalism, and Reich, for starters. The glittering example of Mailers 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 ...
‘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 Mailers exoneration of violence, the real message of the essayif it feels good, do it!was just then beginning to sweep the country with irresistible force. The White Negro, along with some of Mailers 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 Mailers 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.
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.
his views work best if you smoke a lot of dope.
For a true measure of the man, I’d love to know more about the fate of his many children and grandchildren.
“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.
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.
“Playwright Arthur Miller hid the existence of a son with Downs 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 Millers 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.”
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.
Here’s a good blog on him: http://www.bloggernews.net/111608
Thank you. I couldn’t remember clearly... It wasn’t Mailer.
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?
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.”
No. Did you confuse the child with the father?
So he is a good commie now?
No, it was Arthur Miller (as sinanju kindly pointed out).
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.
William Burroughs hardly “glorified bad behavior and consequence-free living”. Have you actually read Naked Lunch?
Reread post, slap down on Mailer. And I thought it was a good one. Must work on my sarcasm.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I was amongst the group not terribly impressed by Mailer. From an earlier thread:
Its 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 wasnt 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 hadnt 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 cant imagine time will be kind to his work or reputation.
27 posted on 11/11/2007 12:36:35 AM PST by tlb
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"...
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...