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The Reviewer’s Song

Andrew O’Hagan: Mailer’s Last Punch

7 November 2013
Norman MailerA Double Life 
by J. Michael Lennon.
Simon and Schuster, 947 pp., £30, November 2013, 978 1 84737 672 5
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... scholarship, or a shotgun marriage between the handsome remnants of personal history and the pretty stuff on the public record. Let’s take the spirit of J. Michael Lennon’s ‘double life’ of NormanMailer and offer that doubleness back as subjective criticism. Mailer, after all, gave us the non-fiction novel, Lennon gives us the pseudo-objective biography, so why can’t I offer the ...

Mummies

Ian Hamilton

16 June 1983
Ancient Evenings 
by Norman Mailer.
Macmillan, 709 pp., £9.95, June 1983, 0 333 34025 6
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... with the grace of the boxer he has sometimes pretended to be ... his ample waist looks solid rather than soft ... He is remarkably fit for a man of 60, which is what he became last Jan 31. Time on NormanMailer, April 1983 His hair showed the silver of a virile maturity, while the lines on his face had not yet become a myriad of wrinkles, terraces and webs, but exhibited, instead, that look of ...

Oswaldworld

Andrew O’Hagan

14 December 1995
Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 791 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 316 87620 8
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... He produced the television film, sold the interviews, oversaw pictures, advised on chat shows and specials, became the reporters’ reporter, the producers’ producer, and he later brought in NormanMailer to write the book. He showed himself to be the king deal-maker and media broker, the chief documenter, of grand-scale American tragedy. Wherever there has been sensational news in America over ...

Christian v. Cannibal

Michael Rogin: Norman Mailer​ and American history

1 April 1999
The American Century 
by Harold Evans.
Cape, 710 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 224 05217 9
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The Time of Our Time 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 1286 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 316 64571 0
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... the senior author superintended only the margins of the book and overlooked the subversive role of his ‘chief history researcher’, Kevin Baker, at the centre). Did the devil paint the picture, as NormanMailer might have it, while God supplied the frame (or, since Mailer’s eschatology is not easy to decipher, was it the other way around)? Mailer, too, is having a love affair with America, but ...

Uppish

W.B. Carnochan

23 February 1995
Satire and Sentiment, 1660-1830 
by Claude Rawson.
Cambridge, 309 pp., £40, March 1994, 0 521 38395 1
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... The specialist in our time of this species of histrionic self-oregrounding, with its teasing delusion of enhanced objectivity and its opportunities for a smirking inwardly directed irony, is NormanMailer.’ Item: examining Oldham’s effort to replicate ‘the postures of the Rochesterian rakes’, Rawson detects in Oldham an occasional ‘note of hoity-toity tu quoque’. Item: and ...

Big Pod

Richard Poirier: How Podhoretz Dumped His Friends

2 September 1999
Ex-Friends 
by Norman​ Podhoretz.
Free Press, 256 pp., $25, February 1999, 0 684 85594 1
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... This book is ostensibly about six literary figures with whom Norman Podhoretz, for 35 years the editor-in-chief of Commentary, was closely involved from the early Fifties until the early Seventies: Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Hannah Arendt, Lillian ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’

17 May 2017
Making It 
by Norman​ Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... of Black Power made them all squirm.) Kazin had been unable to attend the symposium itself but, never one to miss a party, popped into the reception being thrown by Commentary’s editor-in-chief Norman Podhoretz and his wife, the writer and editor Midge Decter, one of the power couples of the Upper West Side intelligentsia – the junior version of Lionel and Diana Trilling. Kazin, a Commentary ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Telly

9 August 2001
... who wasn’t Philip Hensher didn’t get hit by someone who wasn’t James Thackara, after Hensher, reviewing Thackara’s first novel, said he couldn’t ‘write “Bum” on a wall’. At least NormanMailer did head-butt Gore Vidal. Anyway, two hours with the Yellow Dragons is all it takes, and that’s offered at the knock-down price of £10 (two-thirds off): ‘It’s not worth putting yourself ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: HBO

10 June 2010
... about ‘fuck you’ in the Pacific before The Thin Red Line, Terrence Malick’s wonderful poetic encapsulation of jungle heat and the ultimate ‘fuck you’ war conditions on Guadalcanal. Even NormanMailer, much given to such usage, wasn’t allowed to say it in The Naked and the Dead, where the marines, somewhat famously, were forced by his publishers Rinehart & Co to say ‘fug you’. The ...
7 April 1994
Poetry and Pragmatism 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 228 pp., £20, November 1992, 0 571 16617 2
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... the development in American criticism during the last three decades, from The Comic Sense of Henry James (1960) and A World Elsewhere (1966), through a middle phase in The Performing Self (1971) and NormanMailer (1972), on to the major study of Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing (1977), and culminating in The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections (1987) and Poetry and Pragmatism (1992), now ...

Short Cuts

Christian Lorentzen: The Weiner Trilogy

29 August 2013
... In 1969 NormanMailer ran for mayor of New York. He called for the city’s secession from the State of New York to become the 51st state; a ban on private cars in Manhattan; free public bicycles; devolution of powers ...

Sour Plums

John Lanchester

26 October 1989
The Letters of John Cheever 
edited by Benjamin Cheever.
Cape, 397 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 224 02689 5
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Mary McCarthy 
by Carol Gelderman.
Sidgwick, 430 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 283 99797 4
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The company she keeps 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 246 pp., £4.50, October 1989, 0 297 79649 6
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... father, whose public image was that of an impeccably upper-middle-class monogamist suburban WASP, as a promiscuously bisexual alcoholic. One memorable scene had John Updike, a friend and rival – NormanMailer called Cheever and him ‘the Old Pretender and the Young Pretender of the New Yorker’ – ringing the doorbell and being answered by Cheever, bombed out of his mind and stark naked. Home ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters

24 January 2013
Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... and air out their egos. Such dos were among the last hurrahs of the postwar literary era dominated by heap big novelists now facilely grouped as a cetacean school of Great White Males (Styron, NormanMailer, James Jones, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Gore Vidal, J.D. Salinger, Joseph Heller, the recently retired Philip Roth), whose ghostly father and bearded Neptune disturbing the liquor cabinet deep ...

Bugger me blue

Ian Hamilton

22 October 1992
The Selected Letters of Philip Larkin 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 759 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 571 15197 3
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... There is a story that when William F. Buckley Jr sent a copy of his essays to NormanMailer, he pencilled a welcoming ‘Hi, Norman!’ in the Index, next to Mailer’s name. A similar tactic might happily have been ventured by the publishers of Philip Larkin’s Letters: the book’s back pages are going to be well-thumbed. ‘Hi, Craig,’ see page 752, you ...

Mailer’s Psychopath

Christopher Ricks

6 March 1980
The Executioner’s Song 
by Norman Mailer.
Hutchinson, 1056 pp., £8.85, November 1979, 0 09 139540 2
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... testimony. Gilmore was generous, and humorous with it. ‘Well, Moody, I’m going to leave you my hair. You need it worse than I do.’ Thy need, or necessity or whatever, is greater than mine. NormanMailer’s book about Gilmore is a work of genius in its range, depth and restraint. It has speed, which Gilmore had, and patience, which he had not. It has lucidity, even when dealing with legal ...

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