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Norman Mailer has died

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What no thread? It's been all over the radio today...

Uncharitably, I didn't think he deserved his own thread.

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A selection of Mailer's letters have been released in an edited collection.

 

The Daily Beast:

 

“You have to be slightly innocent to be a novelist,” Martin Amis has observed. The remark comes to mind while reading The Selected Letters of Norman Mailer. Of course, innocence is not a word usually associated with Mailer, a writer often caricatured as a literary he-man and mythic brawler. Yet in his letters, Mailer’s innocence, his insistence that the world can be better than it is—along with his sometimes inflated notion of how he can make it better—emerges as essential to the work that would become his indelible contribution to America literature.

 

The New Yorker:

 

If there were a concordance to Mailer’s correspondence, a word that would turn up high on the list would be “existential,” not owing to any special fealty to Jean-Paul Sartre but to Mailer’s own inclinations. For Mailer, the mainspring of connection was personal, was face time; for all his intellectual energy and imaginative invention, Mailer was the bard of immediacy. His very conception of “experience” and its relation to art is at the core of his genius and his frustration.
Edited by NBooth

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Open Letters Monthly:

 

The curse Mailer suffered (you might say self-inflicted) throughout his life was the overshadowing of his work by his personality, not to say his persona. A public face for a public figure is not a sin, nor is it even ill-advised, but Mailer is nowhere quite as off-putting as when he is fulfilling a professional obligation or, better yet, ensuring his own professional future. In the midst of the mad, unsent phase of Fall 1960, he managed to get a few out by post. He wrote to Murray Kempton, a well-established journalist, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., future court historian for the Kennedy administration, Allen Ginsberg (to declare William S. Burroughs a genius), attorney and congressional candidate John Saltonstall, Jr., the editors of Esquire, and, capping off the period, Jackie Kennedy. Some of these, particularly the more personal ones, show a more affable side to Mailer, but they are written in an unmistakably restrained tone.

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Dang, Mailer's everywhere lately [and will continue to be--I just found out that I'm reading Advertisements for Myself in an American Bildungsroman seminar]. The Paris Review has just linked this old interview on Twitter:

 

There’s such a thing as having too much style. I think the only one who ever got away with it is Proust. He really had a perfect mating of material and style. Usually if you have a great style your material will be more constrained. That applies to Henry James and it applies to Hemingway. The reverse of that tendency would be Zola, whose style is reasonably decent, nothing remarkable, but the material is terrific.
 It’s the reason we have so many good writers in America—most of our literature had not yet been written. English novelists had all the major eighteenth- and nineteenth-century geniuses to deal with and go beyond. What did we have to go beyond? A few great writers, Melville and Hawthorne. The list is very short. For us, the field was wide open. Now we’re beleaguered. The movies were bad enough, though American novelists always felt a certain superiority to what was happening in Hollywood. You weren’t learning more about human nature from films, you were just being entertained—at some cost to your ability to learn a little more about why we’re here, which I think is one of the remaining huge questions. 
Edited by NBooth

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Link to our thread on the Armies of the Night adaptation.

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Here's The New Yorker on Mailer and Buckley.

 

 
In “Buckley and Mailer” (Norton), whose overstated subtitle is “The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the Sixties,” Kevin M. Schultz, a historian at the University of Illinois-Chicago, sets out to reconstruct an association that in fact had less warp and woof to it than Buckley’s friendship with Galbraith. John B. Judis’s biography of Buckley says that he was “friendly with” but never “very close” to Mailer. Still, Buckley’s durable cordiality toward Mailer is more remarkable than his being amigos with Galbraith or belligerents with Vidal, and it seems pardonable for Schultz to extend what ought to have been a magazine article into a book-length safari in search of something significant. Here and there he even finds it.

 

Here's Mailer on Firing Line:

 

 

Edited by NBooth

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Here's an interview with Kevin M. Schultz, the author of Buckley and Mailer.

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A-J Aronstein asks at LARB what Mailer (and Medium Cool) might have to say to the current US election:

Boiled down, Mailer asserts that the writer’s perspective can give body to television’s otherwise flat images, while Wexler argues that no single medium has a monopoly on the truth of those images. If the television camera proved something at the 1968 DNC, it was the visceral power of televised footage to shock and galvanize a mass audience, a truth reinforced again and again by nightly news from Vietnam. But coverage of the convention also produced conditions for thinking through the meaning of older mediums in the context of television’s new supremacy. It exposed both the power of TV and the elements of an event that the tube potentially couldn’t mediate.

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Ashley Rindsberg on "How Norman Mailer Blurred the Line Between the Literary and the Lurid"

Looking back, it’s hard to appreciate the outsized and almost total role Mailer played in American culture at a defining time for this country. For more than 50 years, wherever there was a cultural moment brewing, Mailer could be found, usually at its center, often holding a lighted match. His words had the power to draw the direct attention of sitting presidents and his ideas formed the spearhead of a rising counterculture that thrust through the conformity of the postwar United States.


With his celebrity status, the brilliance and originality of his thinking, and his uncanny ability to stir controversy, what Mailer did, said, and — more than anything — what he wrote mattered. And though Mailer had the skill needed to juggle alternating images of misfit and moralizer, philosopher and freewheeler, writer, adventurer, journalistic pioneer and countercultural guerrilla, it’s possible that the ideas he hewed into American culture by the force of his personality and the brilliance of his writing were less fleeting.

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