| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
Norman Kingsley Mailer was born in Long Branch, New
Jersey, and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He entered Harvard at the age of
sixteen. There he majored in aeronautical engineering but soon became
fascinated by literature, especially the work of Steinbeck, Farrell, and Dos
Passos. Active in Harvard literary groups, he won Story magazine’s College
Award in 1941.
1944, drafted into the U.S. Army, he served as a rifleman with the 112th
Cavalry out of San Antonio, Texas, an alien milieu for an unprepossessing
Jewish boy from Brooklyn. He served for eighteen months in the Philippines and
Japan, from which experience grew his first novel, The Naked and the Dead. An
enormous popular and critical success, this book made Mailer a celebrity at the
age of 25 and set in motion a complex series of public responses.
has dogged Mailer through his personal and professional life. The father of
nine children, he has been married six times and has been at the center of
numerous political storms. His sometimes bizarre behavior during his youth and
early middle age (fistfights, arrests, above all the non-fatal stabbing of his
second wife, Adele Morales, in 1960) coupled with his involvement in political
life (co-founding the Village Voice in 1956, running for Mayor of New York City
in 1969, being arrested for civil disobedience during the 1967 March on the
Pentagon) made him a convenient target for the media. Simultaneously his work
and its critical reception proceeded through various stages.
Armies of the Night (1968), for which Mailer won both the Pulitzer Prize for
general non-fiction and the National Book Award for Arts and Letters, recounts
his vision of the March on the Pentagon. This book is paradigmatic of various
lines of development in his life and work. In this “non-fiction novel,”
subtitled History as a Novel: The Novel as History, Mailer’s fictional voice,
his political activism, and his flamboyant public image converge.
The Naked and the Dead, a powerful but derivative naturalistic novel, Mailer
developed an existential fictional voice, peaking in An American Dream (1965).
This controversial novel treats allegorically the protagonist’s murder of his
wife, presenting a sophisticated and profoundly disturbing vision of the
violence endemic in America.
Mailer has remained paradoxical and flamboyant, The Armies of the Night forced
the literary establishment to take him seriously once again. In the thirty-plus
years since this book, he has matured as an artist, producing a large body of important
work and becoming a truly major figure in American letters. In 1979 he won his
second Pulitzer Prize, for The Executioner’s Song, the “true-life novel” of the
murderer Gary Gilmore, which led to further criticism of his obsession with
(some say glamorizing of) American violence. The year 1991 saw the publication
of the massive Harlot’s Ghost, steeped in Mailer’s obsessive themes of
sexuality, violence, and existential choice.
his work has not ceased to engender intense reactions, the former enfant
terrible has unquestionably mellowed personally and grown into the role of
senior statesman of American letters. Happily married to his sixth wife, Norris
Church, Mailer seems to have found tranquillity. As president of PEN, an
international organization of writers, he led the fight for freedom of
expression. And in every arena of American life, he has left his distinctive
and indelible mark.
Barry H. Leeds|
Central Connecticut State University
In the Heath Anthology
from The Armies of the Night
The Nakes and the Dead
The Deer Park
The White Negro
Advertisements for Myself
An American Dream
Why Are We in Vietnam?
The Armies of the Night
Of a Fire on the Moon
The Prisoner of Sex
Genius and Lust
Some Honorable Men
The Executioner's Song
Of Women and Their Elegance
Tough Guys Don't Dance
Oswald: An American Mystery
The Gospel According to the Son
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Books and Writers
A substantive biography and complete list of works.
Featured Author: Norman Mailer
Compilation of Mailer's writings for The New York Times.
New York State Writers Institute
Provides a photograph, literary introduction, list of primary works, and a bibliography of secondary materials.
Norman Mailer His Life And Works
Biographical and literary introduction to Mailer.
Norman Mailer, Gary Gilmore, and the Untold Stories of the Law
Examines the story of Gilmore's conviction and execution through Mailer's The Executioner's Song.
Laura Adams, ed., Will the Real Norman Mailer Please Stand Up?, 1974
Barry H. Leeds, The Structured Vision of Norman Mailer, 1969
J. Michael Lennon, ed., Conversations with Norman Mailer, 1988
J. Michael Lennon, ed., Norman Mailer: Works and Days, 2000
Robert Lucid, ed., Norman Mailer: The Man and His Work, 1971
Hilary Mills, Mailer: A Biography, 1982
Richard Poirier, Norman Mailer, 1972