young contemporary who had set out to write the big war novel and who had pulled it off would one day be in the same fix I was. Not safe. Not wise. Not admired. A fellow victim of the Great Golfer's Age, then no more than a murmur of things to come in the Golfer's murmurous heart.

My first reaction to The Naked and the Dead was: it's a fake. A clever, talented, admirably executed fake. I have not changed my opinion of the book since, though I have considerably changed my opinion of Mailer, as he himself has changed. Now I confess I have never read all of The Naked and the Dead. But I read a good deal of it. I recall a fine description of men carrying a dying man down a mountain. Yet every time I got going in the narrative I would find myself stopped cold by a set of made-up, predictable characters taken, not from life, but from the same novels all of us had read, and informed by a naïveté which was at its worst when Mailer went into his Time-Machine and wrote those passages which resemble nothing so much as smudged carbons of an early Dos Passos work.

Sourly, from a distance, that year I watched the fame of Mailer quite surpass John Home Bums and myself, as well as Truman Capote, who had made his debut earlier the same year. I should explain for those who have come in late or were around then but inattentive that the OK List of writers in 1947 and 1948 was John Home Burns, Calder Willingham and myself. Capote and Mailer were added in 1948. Willingham was soon dropped; then Bums (my own favorite) sank, and by 1949 in the aftermath of The City and the Pillar I too departed the OK List.

"I had the freak of luck to start high on the mountain, and go down sharp while others were passing me"—so Mailer wrote, describing the time after Barbary Shore when he unexpectedly joined the rest of us down on the plain. Now the descent, swift or slow, is not agreeable; but on the other hand it is not as tragic as Mailer seems to find it. To be demoralized by the withdrawal of public success (a process as painful in America as the withdrawal of a drug from an addict) is to grant too easily a victory to the society one has attempted to criticize, affect, change, reform. It is clearly unreasonable to expect to be cherished by those one assaults. It is also childish, in the deepest sense of being a child, ever to expect justice. There is none beneath our moon. One can only hope not to be destroyed entirely by injustice and, to put it cynically, one can very often flourish through an injustice obtaining in one's favor. What matters finally is not the world's judgment of oneself but one's own judgment of the world. Any writer who lacks this final arrogance will not survive very long, especially in America.

That wide graveyard of stillborn talents which contains so much of

-8-

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Norman Mailer
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Norman Mailer *
  • Contents *
  • Editor's Note ix
  • Introduction 1
  • The Angels Are White 7
  • The Early Novels 17
  • The Aesthetics of Norman Mailer 27
  • On the Parapet 33
  • Mailer's New Style 51
  • My Mailer Problem 65
  • Male Chauvinist? 79
  • The Minority Within 85
  • The Naked, the Dead, and the Machine 115
  • "The Armies of the Night" 127
  • "The Executioner's Song" 139
  • The Taking of the Moon 143
  • Sex, Creativity and God 167
  • The Prisoner as Creator in "The Executioner's Song" 183
  • Norman in Egypt: "Ancient Evenings" 193
  • Chronology 201
  • Contributors 203
  • Bibliography 205
  • Acknowledgments 207
  • Index 209
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