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Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Tweeting at an Execution, 6 October 2011

... you can have your cake and tweet it. In that sense, the experience is probably more like the one Norman Mailer described in The Executioner’s Song. When they strapped Gary Gilmore to an old office chair set up in an empty canning factory and let him face the firing squad, there was a curtain over the news and the journalists outside, waiting for their ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: How to Type like a Man, 10 May 2007

... Auster, Bram Stoker, William Burroughs, David Cronenberg, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, J.G. Ballard and Hunter S. Thompson: in other words, men. He says more than once that he’s less interested in typewriters as machines (once upon a time the word also referred to the people, usually women, who used the machines) than in ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Myths of Marilyn, 8 July 2004

... harsh about people making things up, especially if they happen to be Joyce Carol Oates or Norman Mailer, fiction writers who have shown an interest in making up the life of Marilyn Monroe. One could go on all day like this, and people do, which is why Churchwell’s book turns out to be a new sort of literary pot-boiler, where the reader steams ...

Bow. Wow

James Wolcott: Gore Vidal, 3 February 2000

Gore Vidal 
by Fred Kaplan.
Bloomsbury, 850 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7475 4671 1
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... hammocks signing up biographies of high-profile authors such as Saul Bellow, Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer (three thus far, along with a memoir by one of his former wives, with other exes waiting in the wings to take their whacks). The irony is that publishers seem more eager to bring out books about golden-oldie authors than books by them, gossip ...

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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... as a promiscuously bisexual alcoholic. One memorable scene had John Updike, a friend and rival – Norman Mailer 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 before Dark struck some people as devotedly ...

A Little Bit of Showing Off

Adam Phillips: Isherwood’s 1960s, 6 January 2011

The Sixties: Diaries 1960-69 
by Christopher Isherwood, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 756 pp., £30, November 2010, 978 0 7011 6940 4
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... things to a minimum, to record only what actually happened. So when he goes to a party given by Norman Mailer it isn’t Mailer we hear about, or anyone else: ‘Don and I went to a small loud smoky party Norman Mailer was giving at the Ritz. By this time, I was drunk.’ He ...

Short Cuts

Christian Lorentzen: Snotty American Brat, 9 May 2013

... an old friend said to me: ‘You seem more reticent now. Is that a British thing?’ I read two Norman Mailer books on the plane back home – I mean, to London – and the problem seemed to go away. But I’ll never get over my first experience of England. I was waiting at Heathrow to have my passport stamped. I was 11 years old and had a nervous ...

Rectum

Christopher Ricks, 18 October 1984

Tough guys don’t dance 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 231 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7181 2454 5
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... of marijuana remained.’ This has its affinities not only with the world of a Chandler (which Mailer burns at both ends), but also with Romantic Gothic. The inhumed human head, the herb: Isabella, or the Pot of Pot. Some Keatsian byplay is kept up by the heroine’s being called Madeleine (almost right); and Madeleine Falco is an Italian not a Maltese ...

The Vanishing Brothel

Linda Nochlin, 6 March 1997

A Life of Picasso. Vol. II: 1907-1917 
by John Richardson and Marilyn McCully.
Cape, 500 pp., £30, November 1996, 0 224 03120 1
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Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 398 pp., £25, November 1996, 0 316 88173 2
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Picasso and the Spanish Tradition 
edited by Jonathan Brown.
Yale, 208 pp., £30, November 1996, 0 300 06475 6
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... to a relatively short but significant portion of the artist’s life and achievement. This is what Norman Mailer does in his Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man. This ‘interpretive biography’ is valuable mainly as a source of some excellent reproductions. Completely dependent on previously published material, purple in its prose, slovenly in its ...

President Gore

Inigo Thomas: Gore Vidal, 10 May 2007

Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir, 1964-2006 
by Gore Vidal.
Little, Brown, 278 pp., £17.99, November 2006, 0 316 02727 8
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... proof for Vidal that embellishment was what Capote was best at. Nor was he tremendously happy when Norman Mailer published The Naked and the Dead. He caught up, and in the seven years after 1945 wrote seven novels. He wasn’t satisfied with the first few. The one he likes least, In a Yellow Wood (1947), was written when he was briefly an editor at a New ...

Dostoevsky’s America

Karl Miller, 3 September 1981

In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison 
by Jack Henry Abbott.
Random House, 166 pp., $11.95, June 1981, 0 394 51858 6
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... In 1979 there appeared Norman Mailer’s long book The Executioner’s Song – a thousand paperback pages, as it subsequently became, on the strange case of Gary Gilmore, the murderer who insisted on being put to death, insisted that the state keep its word.* In March of the following year, in the London Review of Books, the book was examined at length by Christopher Ricks, whose piece was reprinted – at Mailer’s suggestion, or so I was told at the time – in the form of an advertisement in the New York Review of Books ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... Frank Sinatra raised money for the Reagans and acted as at least a confidante to the First Lady. Norman Podhoretz’s son-in-law Elliott Abrams, while working as Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State, dunned the Sultan of Brunei for a $10 million backhander to the Contras and then lost the money in a Swiss computer error. Ronald Reagan sent three envoys ...

The Mantle of Jehovah

Francis Spufford, 25 June 1987

Sugar 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 224 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 7011 3169 1
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... seem silly. You could, of course, draw a contrast simply in terms of range of Bad Moments covered: Norman Mailer has preferred to steer clear of the peculiar pains of childbirth, and Andrea Dworkin has chosen not to dwell on the distinctive horror an uneasy Christmas dinner can become, while Byatt can and has handled both as elements in her continuing ...

Hemingway Hunt

Frank Kermode, 17 April 1986

Along with Youth: Hemingway, the Early Years 
by Peter Griffin.
Oxford, 258 pp., £12.95, March 1986, 0 19 503680 8
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The Young Hemingway 
by Michael Reynolds.
Blackwell, 291 pp., £14.95, February 1986, 0 631 14786 1
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Hemingway: A Biography 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Macmillan, 646 pp., £16.95, March 1986, 0 333 42126 4
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... Broadway theatre, not to see a play but to enjoy what was meant to be a thrilling contest between Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal. The place was packed; except for those sponsored by some publisher, the audience had bought very expensive tickets, and they displayed a keenness more appropriate to a prizefight. Indeed a prizefight was what they ...

Diary

Jay McInerney: The Great American Novelists, 23 April 1987

... where the Bible and The Joy of Cooking constituted the library. As a boy, I became acquainted with Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal and Truman Capote as talk-show guests. The TV screen was their boxing-ring. Literally so, on occasion, for Mailer, who had studied his Hemingway. Vidal was the sophisticate ...

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