Academic journal article The Mailer Review

The Deer Park

Academic journal article The Mailer Review

The Deer Park

Article excerpt

By Norman Mailer, Putnam, $4.

The village VOICE, November 9, 1955

WITH HIS NEW NOVEL, Norman Mailer has routed the Philistines. Their panic is evident from the reviews already published, reviews which betray an almost total lack of comprehension of the book and, further, the fear it has inspired among the timid of nerve. Characteristically, this fear is revealed by slips of print and errors of reportage in many of the appraisals I have seen. The number of these is too large for all of them to be attributed to accident; they must hence, have a significance beyond the slippery fingers of typesetters or the careless eyes of proofreaders.

But it is not surprising that The Deer Park has evoked such a response. Almost alone among recent novels, it probes the secret places of the modern soul, entering its recessed areas and exploring interior terrain ordinarily heavily guarded from public view. It takes a great deal of courage to follow the author where he so determinedly wishes to lead--more courage, I think, than most of us have.

Unconventional in design and of a unique literary architecture, The Deer Park is not so much a story as it is a delicate study of character and intra-human relationships projected against the stark landscape of basic instinct. With all the tender care of a master weaver, its author has fabricated a tapestry of personality wherein the texture of each human unit varies subtly--and by measured quantitative and qualitative degrees--from the others. When, at last, the final picture emerges, we find ourselves in possession of a veritable anatomy of the types Mailer has chosen to represent our mid-twentieth century society.

Like every valid work of art, The Deer Park can be read on more than one level. Unfortunately, many of the critics have evaluated the work on its most superficial, referring to it as a "Hollywood novel," and placing it for comparison alongside volumes of that genre. This is a mistake that perverts the author's intention and reduces the significance of the book; for that aspect of his book, except that it serves him as a whetstone for the sharpening of his perception, obviously interests Mailer least. …

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