JACK RICHARDSON


The Aesthetics of
Norman Mailer

There have been times when writing was considered an act of grace, a form of almost supernatural intervention in the ordinary affairs of the human imagination. The modem masters, however, have made it clear that the merely inspired soon perish and that the writer and his book are best, if not entirely, sustained by an act of will. James, Flaubert, Joyce, Mann—their testament can be seen as much in the persistent struggle to create a disciplined and meaningful language as in the worlds and characters that they left us. One need not be acquainted with their biographies to understand that a long battle of attrition once took place to ferret out of the rough matter of inspiration a strong, polished, personal idiom. Indeed, again and again readers have discovered that, at its best, the modem novel often deals with the adventure of its own making and that, while celebrating itself, it more than insinuates that its real hero is its creator, whose passion and agony we, for convenience, simply call his "style."

To many, Norman Mailer may seem far removed from these aesthetic preoccupations, but he is in fact one of the very few writers in the last decade or so who has really understood the hard lesson that the modern masters have taught. He has certainly grasped the act of will—the style—necessary to the writer-as-protagonist, and he has insisted stubbornly on exercising it again and again for its own sake as well as for the periodic re-creation of himself as a writer. He has done this, of course,

____________________
From The New York Review of Books ( May 8, 1969). Copyright © 1969 by the New York Review.

-27-

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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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