Norman Mailer

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Every moment of one's existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit.

Norman Mailer (1923-01-31 - 2007-11-10) was an American novelist, journalist, playwright, screenwriter and film director who is considered to have been innovator of creative nonfiction, a genre sometimes called New Journalism.


  • Every moment of one's existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit.
    • "Hip, Hell, and the Navigator" in Western Review No. 23 (Winter 1959); republished in Conversations with Norman Mailer (1988) edited by J. Michael Lennon.
  • The final purpose of art is to intensify, even, if necessary, to exacerbate, the moral consciousness of people.
    • "Hip, Hell, and the Navigator" in Western Review No. 23 (Winter 1959); republished in Conversations with Norman Mailer (1988) edited by J. Michael Lennon.
  • The sickness of our times for me has been just this damn thing that everything has been getting smaller and smaller and less and less important, that the romantic spirit has dried up, that there is no shame today.... We're all getting so mean and small and petty and ridiculous, and we all live under the threat of extermination.
    • "Hip, Hell, and the Navigator" in Western Review No. 23 (Winter 1959); republished in Conversations with Norman Mailer (1988) edited by J. Michael Lennon.
  • Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.
    • "Mr. Mailer Interviews Himself" in The New York Times Book Review (17 September 1965)
  • You're contending with a genius, D.J. is his name, only American alive who could outtalk Cassius Clay, that's lip.
    • D.J., in Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967) Ch. 1
  • This is D.J., Disc Jockey to America turning off. Vietnam, hot dam.
    • D.J., in Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967) Ch. 10
  • One's condition on marijuana is always existential. One can feel the importance of each moment and how it is changing one. One feels one's being, one becomes aware of the enormous apparatus of nothingness — the hum of a hi-fi set, the emptiness of a pointless interruption, one becomes aware of the war between each of us, how the nothingness in each of us seeks to attack the being of others, how our being in turn is attacked by the nothingness in others.
    • Interview in Writers at Work Third Series (1967) edited by George Plimpton
  • With the pride of an artist, you must blow against the walls of every power that exists, the small trumpet of your defiance.
    • As quoted in The Eternal Adam and the New World Garden (1968) by David W. Noble, p. 204
  • His consolation in those hours when he was most uncharitable to himself is that taken at his very worst he was at least still worthy of being a character in a novel by Balzac, win one day, lose the next, and do it with boom! and baroque in the style.
  • New York is one of the capitals of the world and Los Angeles is a constellation of plastic, San Francisco is a lady, Boston has become Urban Renewal, Philadelphia and Baltimore and Washington blink like dull diamonds in the smog of Eastern Megalopolis, and New Orleans is unremarkable past the French Quarter. Detroit is a one-trade town, Pittsburgh has lost its golden triangle, St Louis has become the golden arch of the corporation, and nights in Kansas City close early. The oil depletion allowance makes Houston and Dallas naught but checkerboards for this sort of game. But Chicago is a great American city. Perhaps it is the last of the great American cities.
    • Miami and the Siege of Chicago : An Informal History of the Republican and Democratic Conventions of 1968 (1969)
  • There are four stages to marriage. First there's the affair, then there's the marriage, then children, and finally the fourth stage, without which you cannot know a woman, the divorce.
    • News summaries (31 December 1969)
  • Women think of being a man as a gift. It is a duty. Even making love can be a duty. A man has always got to get it up, and love isn't always enough.
    • News summaries (31 December 1969)
  • The horror of the Twentieth Century was the size of each new event, and the paucity of its reverberation.
    • A Fire on the Moon (1970), Pt. 1, Ch. 1
  • The difference between writing a book and being on television is the difference between conceiving a child and having a baby made in a test tube.
    • "The Siege of Mailer : Hero to Historian" in The Village Voice (21 January 1971); republished in Conversations with Norman Mailer (1988), edited by J. Michael Lennon
  • We think of Marilyn who was every man's love affair with America. Marilyn Monroe who was blonde and beautiful and had a sweet little rinky-dink of a voice and all the cleanliness of all the clean American backyards.
    • Marilyn(1973), Ch. 1
  • The highest prize in a world of men is the most beautiful woman available on your arm and living there in her heart loyal to you.
  • A little bit of rape is good for a man's soul.
    • Address on "Richard Milhous Nixon and Women's Liberation" at the University of California at Berkeley, as quoted in TIME magazine (6 November 1972), which also reported that at the close of his address:
Mailer invited "all the feminists in the audience to please hiss." When a satisfying number obliged, he commented: "Obedient little bitches."
  • I think it's bad to talk about one's present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension.
    • As quoted in The Writer's Quotation Book : A Literary Companion (1980) by James Charlton, p. 43
  • Crude thoughts and fierce forces are my state. I do not know who I am. Nor what I was. I cannot hear a sound. Pain is near that will be like no pain felt before.
    • Ancient Evenings (1983) First lines
  • We sail across dominions barely seen, washed by the swells of time. We plow through fields of magnetism. Past and future come together on thunderheads and our dead hearts live with lightning in the wounds of the Gods.
    • Ancient Evenings (1983) Last lines
  • Short-term amnesia is not the worst affliction if you have an Irish flair for the sauce.
    • Vanity Fair (May 1984)
  • Decade after decade, artists came to paint the light of Provincetown, and comparisons were made to the lagoons of Venice and the marshes of Holland, but then the summer ended and most of the painters left, and the long dingy undergarment of the gray New England winter, gray as the spirit of my mood, came down to visit.
    • Timothy Madden, in Tough Guys Don't Dance (1984), Ch. 1
  • When I read it, I don't wince, which is all I ever ask for a book I write.
    • On Tough Guys Don't Dance as quoted in The New York Times (8 June 1984)
  • Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child.
    • Newsweek (22 October 1984)
  • I felt something shift to murder in me. I felt … that I was an outlaw, a psychic outlaw, and I liked it.
    • His reaction to a publisher's rejection of The Deer Park because of six "salacious lines" he would not remove, as quoted in The New York Times (21 July 1985)
  • On a late-winter evening in 1983, while driving through fog along the Maine coast, recollections of old campfires began to drift into the March mist, and I thought of the Abnaki Indians of the Algonquin tribe who dwelt near Bangor a thousand years ago.
    • Harry Hubbard, in Harlot's Ghost : A Novel (1991)
  • What if there are not only two nostrils, two eyes, two lobes, and so forth, but two psyches as well, and they are separately equipped? They go through life like Siamese twins inside one person.... They can be just a little different, like identical twins, or they can be vastly different, like good and evil.
    • Kittredge Gardiner, in Harlot's Ghost : A Novel (1991)
  • I never saw love as luck, as that gift from the gods which put everything else in place, and allowed you to succeed. No, I saw love as reward. One could find it only after one's virtue, or one's courage, or self-sacrifice, or generosity, or loss, has succeeded in stirring the power of creation.
    • Harry Hubbard, in Harlot's Ghost : A Novel (1991)
  • There is nothing safe about sex. There never will be.
    • As quoted in The International Herald Tribune (24 January 1992)
  • Obsession is the single most wasteful human activity, because with an obsession you keep coming back and back and back to the same question and never get an answer.
    • Interview with Divina Infusino in American Way (15 June 1995)
  • I don't think life is absurd. I think we are all here for a huge purpose. I think we shrink from the immensity of the purpose we are here for.
    • Interview with Divina Infusino in American Way (15 June 1995)
  • The ultimate tendency of liberalism is vegetarianism.
    • Herbst Theater, San Francisco City Arts & Lectures Series, (5 February 2007)
  • Booze, pot, too much sex, failure in one's private life, too much attrition, too much recognition, too little recognition. Nearly everything in the scheme of things works to dull a first-rate talent. But the worst probably is cowardice.

The Naked and the Dead (1948)

  • You're a fool if you don't realize this is going to be the reactionary's century, perhaps their thousand-year reign. It's the one thing Hitler said which wasn't completely hysterical.
    • Gen. Edward Cummings, in Pt. 1, Ch. 3
  • I hate everything which is not in myself.
    • Sgt. Sam Croft, in Pt. 1, Ch. 5
  • A nation fights well in proportion to the amount of men and materials it has. And the other equation is that the individual soldier in that army is a more effective soldier the poorer his standard of living has been in the past.
    • Gen. Edward Cummings, in Pt. 1, Ch. 6
  • The natural role of twentieth-century man is anxiety.
    • Gen. Edward Cummings, in Pt. 1, Ch. 6
  • To make an Army work you have to have every man in it fitted into a fear ladder... The Army functions best when you're frightened of the man above you, and contemptuous of your subordinates.
    • Gen. Edward Cummings, in Pt. 1, Ch. 6
  • There's that popular misconception of man as something between a brute and an angel. Actually man is in transit between brute and God.
    • Gen. Edward Cummings, in Pt. 1, Ch. 11
  • He felt a crude ecstasy. He could not have given the reason, but the mountain tormented him, beckoned him, held an answer to something he wanted. It was so pure, so austere.
    • On Sgt. Sam Croft and Mt. Anaka, in Pt. 3, Ch. 3
  • Croft had an instinctive knowledge of land, sensed the stresses and torsions that had first erupted it, the abrasions of wind and water. The platoon had long ceased to question any direction he took; they knew he would be right as infallibly as sun after darkness or fatigue after a long march.
    • Pt. 3, Ch. 10
  • He could jazz up the map-reading class by having a full-size color photograph of Betty Grable in a bathing suit, with a co-ordinate grid system laid over it. The instructor could point to different parts of her and say, "Give me the co-ordinates."... The Major could see every unit in the Army using his idea.... Hot dog!
    • On Maj. Dalleson, in Pt. 4, Ch. 1

Barbary Shore (1951)

  • There was never a revolution to equal it, and never a city more glorious than Petrograd, and for all that period of my life I lived another and braved the ice of winter and the summer flies in Vyborg while across my adopted country of the past, winds of the revolution blew their flame, and all of us suffered hunger while we drank at the wine of equality.
    • Michael Lovett, in Ch. 14
  • What were the phenomena of the world today? If I knew little else, I knew the answer — war, and the preparations for new war.
    • Michael Lovett, in Ch. 18
  • He was a fool — a brilliant man and I loved his beard, and there was the mountain ax in his brain, and all the blood poured out, and he could not see the Mexican sun. Your people raised the ax, and the last blood of revolutionary mankind, his poor blood, ran into the carpet.
    • Lannie Madison, on the assassination of Leon Trotsky, in Ch. 21
  • Revolutions are the periods of history when individuals count most.
    • McLeod, in Ch. 29
  • The storm approaches its thunderhead, and it is apparent that the boat drifts ever closer to shore. So the blind will lead the blind, and the deaf shout warnings to one another until their voices are lost.
    • Michael Lovett, in Ch. 33

The Deer Park (1955)

  • Somerset Maugham ... wrote somewhere that "Nobody is any better than he ought to be."... I carried it along with me as a working philosophy, but I suppose that finally I would have to take exception to the thought ... or else the universe is just an elaborate clock.
    • Ch. 10
  • The manuscript lay like a dust-rag on his desk, and Eitel found, as he had found before, that the difficulty of art was that it forced a man back on his life, and each time the task was more difficult and distasteful.
    • Ch. 14
  • The essence of spirit, he thought to himself, was to choose the thing which did not better one's position but made it more perilous. That was why the world he knew was poor, for it insisted morality and caution were identical.
    • Ch. 18
  • There was that law of life so cruel and so just which demanded that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same.
    • Ch. 26
  • I ask, "Would You agree that sex is where philosophy begins?" But God, who is the oldest of the philosophers, answers in his weary cryptic way, "Rather think of Sex as Time, and Time as the connection of new circuits."
    • Ch. 28

The Man Who Studied Yoga (1956)

Published in New Short Novels 2 (1956)
  • I would introduce myself if it were not useless. The name I had last night will not be the same as the name I have tonight. For the moment, then, let me say that I am thinking of Sam Slovoda.
    • Ch. 1
  • I am convinced the most unfortunate people are those who would make an art of love. It sours other effort. Of all artists, they are certainly the most wretched.
    • Ch. 5
  • The novelist, thinks Sam, perspiring beneath blankets, must live in paranoia and seek to be one with the world; he must be terrified of experience and hungry for it; he must think himself nothing and believe he is superior to all. The feminine in his nature cries out for proof he is a man; he loves himself and therefore despises all that he is.
    • Ch. 5
  • He has wasted the day, he tells himself, he has wasted the day as he has wasted so many days of his life ... while that huge work with which he has cheated himself, that enormous novel which would lift him at a bound from the impasse in which he stifles, whose dozens of characters would develop a vision of life in bountiful complexity, lies foundering, rotting on a beach of purposeless effort. Notes here, pages there, it sprawls through a formless wreck of incidental ideas and half-episodes; utterly without shape. He is not even a hero for it.
    • Ch. 5
  • However could he organize his novel? What form to give it? It is so complex. Too loose, thinks Sam, too scattered.
    • Ch. 5
  • I give an idea to Sam. "Destroy time, and chaos may be ordered," I say to him.
    "Destroy time, and chaos may be ordered," he repeats after me, and in desperation to seek his coma, mutters back, "I do not feel my nose, my nose is numb, my eyes are heavy, my eyes are heavy."
    So Sam enters the universe of sleep, a man who seeks to live in such a way as to avoid pain, and succeeds merely in avoiding pleasure. What a dreary compromise is life!
    • Ch. 5

Advertisements for Myself (1959)

  • Each day a few more lies eat into the seed with which we are born, little institutional lies from the print of newspapers, the shock waves of television, and the sentimental cheats of the movie screen.
    • "First Advertisement for Myself"
  • There is probably no sensitive heterosexual alive who is not preoccupied with his latent homosexuality.
    • "The Homosexual Villain"
    • This has also been misquoted as: "There is probably no heterosexual alive who is not preoccupied with his latent homosexuality."
  • I had my good looks, my blond hair, my height, build, and bullfighting school, I suppose I became one of the Village equivalents of an Eagle Scout badge for the girls. I was one of the credits needed for a diploma in the sexual humanities.
    • Sergius O'Shaugnessy, in "The Time of Her Time"
  • When the wind carries a cry which is meaningful to human ears, it is simpler to believe the wind shares with us some part of the emotion of Being than that the mysteries of a hurricane's rising murmur reduce to no more than the random collision of insensate molecules.
    • "Advertisement for Myself on the Way Out"
  • God like Us suffers the ambition to make a destiny more extraordinary than was conceived for Him, yes God is like Me, only more so.
    • "Advertisement for Myself on the Way Out"
  • Hip is the sophistication of the wise primitive in a giant jungle.
    • "The White Negro", first published in Dissent (Summer 1957)
  • America is a hurricane, and the only people who do not hear the sound are those fortunate if incredibly stupid and smug White Protestants who live in the center, in the serene eye of the big wind.
  • "Advertisement for 'Games and Ends'", Pt. 5
  • The White Protestant's ultimate sympathy must be with science, factology, and committee rather than with sex, birth, heat, flesh, creation, the sweet and the funky; they must vote, manipulate, control, and direct, these Protestants who are the center of power in our land, they must go for what they believe is reason when it is only the Square logic of the past.
  • "Advertisement for 'Games and Ends'", Pt. 5

The Presidential Papers (1963)

  • A modern democracy is a tyranny whose borders are undefined; one discovers how far one can go only by traveling in a straight line until one is stopped.
    • Preface
  • In America few people will trust you unless you are irreverent.
    • Preface
  • Ultimately a hero is a man who would argue with the gods, and so awakens devils to contest his vision. The more a man can achieve, the more he may be certain that the devil will inhabit a part of his creation.
    • Preface
  • A political convention is after all not a meeting of a corporation's board of directors; it is a fiesta, a carnival, a pig-rooting, horse-snorting, band-playing, voice-screaming medieval get-together of greed, practical lust, compromised idealism, career-advancement, meeting, feud, vendetta, conciliation, of rabble-rousers, fist fights (as it used to be), embraces, drunks (again as it used to be) and collective rivers of animal sweat.
  • In America all too few blows are struck into flesh. We kill the spirit here, we are experts at that. We use psychic bullets and kill each other cell by cell.
    • The Fourth Presidential Paper — Foreign Affairs : Letter To Castro
  • I'm hostile to men, I'm hostile to women, I'm hostile to cats, to poor cockroaches, I'm afraid of horses.
    • The Sixth Presidential Paper — A Kennedy Miscellany : An Impolite Interview
  • At bottom, I mean profoundly at bottom, the FBI has nothing to do with Communism, it has nothing to do with catching criminals, it has nothing to do with the Mafia, the syndicate, it has nothing to do with trust-busting, it has nothing to do with interstate commerce, it has nothing to do with anything but serving as a church for the mediocre. A high church for the true mediocre.
    • The Sixth Presidential Paper — A Kennedy Miscellany : An Impolite Interview

Cannibals and Christians (1966)

  • We live in a time which has created the art of the absurd. It is our art. It contains happenings, Pop art, camp, a theater of the absurd... Do we have the art because the absurd is the patina of waste...? Or are we face to face with a desperate or most rational effort from the deepest resources of the unconscious of us all to rescue civilization from the pit and plague of its bedding?
    • Introducing our Argument
  • We are close to dead. There are faces and bodies like gorged maggots on the dance floor, on the highway, in the city, in the stadium; they are a host of chemical machines who swallow the product of chemical factories, aspirin, preservatives, stimulant, relaxant, and breathe out their chemical wastes into a polluted air. The sense of a long last night over civilization is back again.
    • Introducing our Argument
  • There's a subterranean impetus towards pornography so powerful that half the business world is juiced by the sort of half sex that one finds in advertisements.
    • "Petty Notes on Some Sex in America" first published in Playboy magazine (1961 - 1962)
  • Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor. Because there is very little honor left in American life, there is a certain built-in tendency to destroy masculinity in American men.
    • "Petty Notes on Some Sex in America" first published in Playboy magazine (1961 - 1962)
  • Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment.
  • There is one expanding horror in American life. It is that our long odyssey toward liberty, democracy and freedom-for-all may be achieved in such a way that utopia remains forever closed, and we live in freedom and hell, debased of style, not individual from one another, void of courage, our fear rationalized away.
    • Review of the book My Hope for America
  • What characterizes a member of a minority group is that he is forced to see himself as both exceptional and insignificant, marvelous and awful, good and evil.
    • "A Speech at Berkeley on Vietnam Day"

An American Dream (1965)

  • I met Jack Kennedy in November, 1946.... We went out on a double date and it turned out to be a fair evening for me. I seduced a girl who would have been bored by a diamond as big as the Ritz.
    • Stephen Rojack, in Ch. 1
  • I was now at a university in New York, a professor of existential psychology with the not inconsiderable thesis that magic, dread, and the perception of death were the roots of motivation.
    • Stephen Rojack, in Ch. 1
  • Murder offers the promise of vast relief. It is never unsexual.
    • Stephen Rojack, in Ch. 1
  • Witches have no wit, said the magician who was weak. Hula, hula, said the witches.
    • Stephen Rojack, in Ch. 4
  • I had a quick grasp of the secret to sanity — it had become the ability to hold the maximum of impossible combinations in one's mind.
    • Stephen Rojack, in Ch. 5
  • Love was love, one could find it with anyone, one could find it anywhere. It was just that you could never keep it. Not unless you were ready to die for it.
    • Stephen Rojack, in Ch. 6
  • Comfortless was my religion, anxiety of the anxieties, for I believed God was not love, but courage. Love came only as a reward.
    • Stephen Rojack, in Ch. 7
  • The Irish are the only men who know how to cry for the dirty polluted blood of all the world.
    • Detective Roberts, in Ch. 8
  • Madness is locked beneath. It goes into tissues, is swallowed by the cells. The cells go mad. Cancer is their flag. Cancer is the growth of madness denied.
    • Stephen Rojack, in Ch. 8

TIME interview (1991)

"His Punch Is Better Than Ever" by Bonnie Angelo in TIME magazine (30 September 1991)
  • I don't think we're ever going to have a cheap fascism of Brownshirts and goose stepping or anything of that sort. We're too American for that. We would find that ridiculous.
    But there are always traces of repression. And you can find it in a Democratic government too. People who are "right-minded," you know, are always with us. But I think so long as we can move along with the economy, we're all right. It's just if there's a smash, a crash — that's when I'm not at all optimistic about what's going to happen.
  • I love the idea of a left conservative because it gets rid of political cant. We're stifling in it. One of the diseases of the right is self-righteousness. I do believe that America's deepest political sickness is that it is a self-righteous nation.
    One of the diseases of the left is political correctness. If you're out of power for too long, then you just get worse and worse about how important your own ideas are.
  • I had a great many prejudices that have since dissolved. But what I still hate about the women's movement is their insistence upon male piety in relation to it. I don't like bending my knee and saying I'm sorry, mea culpa. I find now that women have achieved some power and recognition they are quite the equal of men in every stupidity and vice and misjudgment that we've exercised through history.
    They're narrow-minded, power seeking, incapable of recognizing the joys of a good discussion. The women's movement is filled with tyrants, just as men's political movements are equally filled.
    What I've come to discover are the negative sides, that women are no better than men. I used to think — this is sexism in a way, I'll grant it — that women were better than men. Now I realize no, they're not any better.
  • We've got an agreeable, comfortable life here as Americans. But under it there's a huge, free-floating anxiety. Our inner lives, our inner landscape is just like that sky out there — it's full of smog. We really don't know what we believe anymore, we're nervous about everything.
  • It's a misperception of me that I am a wild man — I wish I still were. I'm 68 years old. The rage now is, oh, so deep it's almost comfortable. It has even approached the point where I can live with it philosophically. The world's not what I want it to be. But then no one ever said I had the right to design the world.

Interview for French TV (1998)

Interview (1998) made for French television, first broadcast on French and US television in October 2000, as quoted in ["Mailer Tells a Lot. Not All, but a Lot.; His Longest Love Affair Is With the U.S." by Bernard Weinraub, in The New York Times (4 October 2000)
  • I've always felt that my relationship to the United States is analogous to a marriage. I love this country. I hate it. I get angry at it. I feel close to it. I'm charmed by it. I'm repelled by it. And it's a marriage that's gone on for let's say at least 50 years of my writing life, and in the course of that, what's happened? It's gotten worse. It's not what it used to be.
  • I certainly do have this feeling of affection for the absolute sense of intellectual freedom that exists as a live nerve, a live wire, right through the center of American life. ... Every time I get totally discouraged with this country, I remind myself, "No, the fact is that finally we can really say what we think, and some extraordinary things have come out of that."
  • We are as ugly as animals in our fashion, and unless we deal with the ugliness in ourselves, unless we deal with the violence in ourselves, the brutality in ourselves, and find some way to sublimate it, just to use Freud's term, into something slightly higher, we're never going to get anywhere with anything.
  • I knew that Jack needed a lot of help, and what he really needed was somebody who could spend a prodigious amount of time with him, every night, see him, live with him, live with him the way someone in A.A. lives with a drunk. ... I wasn't doing that. So when the crime occurred — because I'd just been hoping things would work out all right — when the crime occurred, I knew that I had a responsibility on that one.
    • On his role in the parole of Jack Abbott, during which Abbot killed a man.
  • Writing can wreck your body. You sit there on the chair hour after hour and sweat your guts out to get a few words.'
  • What's not realized about good novelists is that they're as competitive as good athletes. They study each other — where the other person is good and where the person is less good. Writers are like that but don't admit it.
  • He had a personality that was hopeless. He had a profound distrust of people's possibilities, and it came out in his personality. ... There was an almost indecent pleasure he took in being sentimental about all the worst things.
  • There's a detachment that you need as a writer. And as a young man, I probably had more detachment than I have today. So that part of me was just looking at the battlefield, and it was certainly full of horrors. There was a lieutenant with us and a driver and another enlisted man like myself. And I think they were shocked profoundly.'
    I just thought — this is a cold and cruel thing to say, but it's the way a writer is — I thought, "Oh, this is good." Not that it was good that all these people are dead. But "Oh, it's so good for writing." There was a sense of, "This can be used."

Quotes about Mailer

  • When you talk of Norman Mailer, right away I see van Gogh's work boots. Norman was a working man. Lord, did he work. From one end of his life to the other, he sat in solemn thought and left so much to read, so many pages with ideas that come at you like sparks spitting from a fire. He leaves them to a nation that has surrendered all its years to converting truth to an untruthful excuse for killing
  • He was really the great chronicler of his time, the champion of personal reportage. His output was prodigious, his range of interests very wide, from Marilyn Monroe to Picasso to the art of graffiti to extreme forms of crime. His vaunted life as a public figure may have actually impeded serious critical attention to much of his work. Presumably, it will be possible now
  • He was absolutely dauntless ... He was quite weak in the end, but he still planned to write a seven-volume novel about Hitler.
  • He was a very sweet-natured person, despite what some people think. And he was very very patient. I would take one of his manuscripts and make some suggestions and he would be very nice about it and say, 'Yes, you've given me something to think about.' And I would get the manuscript back and I would see that he had included none of my ideas
  • Norman was a splendid, surprising American writer, a good friend, a true New Yorker, and a man we will all miss. To me, it's like a thousand people just left the room. As a novelist, he never repeated himself, never succumbed to the temptation to write 'The Naked and the Dead Go to Japan,' and always made us imagine other lives, other choices, other varieties of human folly, grandeur and capacity for evil.
  • We would talk about everything ... He knew he wasn't going to live very much longer, but he would still talk of taking on the greatest subjects. He always was working on something.
  • He had such a compendious vision of what it meant to be alive. He had serious opinions on everything there was to have an opinion on, and everything he had was so original.
  • In the beginning, Mailer spins publicity for convict and murderer Jack Abbott, helps get Abbott's prison book published and Abbott paroled. The con with the prose style of a Doberman (all speed and teeth) obeys his muse again. Six weeks after parole, Abbott kills a man in New York City's East Village. ... It was common to hear New Yorkers say that he should be tried as an accessory to murder. Mailer barged around giving interviews and suing a newspaper for libel, looking truculent and stricken.
    In one way it was unfair: Mailer had had the courage to sponsor a talented pariah, and then something in Abbott's transition from prison went disastrously wrong. Mailer was personally aggrieved and pained, not only for Abbott but for Abbott's victim. It is true that certain writers adopt convicts: criminals, sinister, romantic and stupid as sharks, become the executive arms of intellectuals' violent fantasies. For some reason, intellectuals rarely understand that they are being conned: convicts are geniuses of ingratiation. Still, Mailer after all was not promoting a killer but a prose stylist and what he judged to be a salvageable human being. He miscalculated: he overrated the writer in Abbott and underestimated the murderer.
  • He could do anything he wanted to do — the movie business, writing, theater, politics. He never thought the boundaries were restricted. He'd go anywhere and try anything. He was a courageous person, a great person, fully confident, with a great sense of optimism
  • One night, we had a dinner party for the express purpose of introducing Mailer to Neil Gaiman. Neil, as was his habit, was so charming that Norman wanted to read The Sandman. He liked the series enough to provide a cover blurb for the next trade paperback collection. Neil later reported that bookstore buyers told him that the Mailer quote persuaded them to stock graphic novels. And the rest, as they say, is history.
  • He was interesting, because he was interested. ... I went to Provincetown a year or two ago and stayed with him and Norris. It was very pleasant. He was in good form. We both dislike the same things about our native land so we had lots to talk about.
  • That's a photograph of Norman Mailer. He was a very great writer; he, uh, donated his ego to the Harvard Medical School for study.


  • Alimony is the curse of the writing class.
  • There is no question that Hogg by Samuel R. Delany is a work of literary merit.

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