J. Michael Lennon

Archivist, Biographer, Educator

Crafted Confession

Re-reading Memories of a Catholic Girlhood by Mary McCarthy

Mary McCarthy planned to write a three-volume autobiography late in her life, but only finished the first, How I Grew (1987), before she died at the age of seventy-seven in 1989. It was politely received, as due the “First Lady of American Letters … our Joan of Arc”, as Norman Mailer referred to her, but the praise was generally tepid, largely because it was a twice-told tale. McCarthy had covered roughly the same years of her life in an earlier book, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. Published in 1957, it is considered by some to be the best of her two dozen books, including eight novels and several volumes of essays, reportage and criticism. Its superiority derives not only from the passionate sense of justice that imbues the depiction of her ghastly Cinderella childhood, but also the singular circumstances of its composition.

Gallery: Book Release Party

From the book release party of Susan Mailer‘s In Another Place. Photos by Elizabeth Rainer (erainer [at] gmail [dot] com).

Mike Interviews Susan Mailer

J. Michael Lennon: As a practicing psychoanalyst, you have published professional papers, but this is your first creative work. Why did you decide to write a memoir?

Susan Mailer: In 2013 I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Norman Mailer Society Conference. I decided to write a personal vignette that would shed light on an unknown aspect of my father’s life. Immediately, I remembered those months Dad had spent in Mexico when I was a small child and had taken me to the bullfights. I hadn’t thought about the corridas in more than 40 years, but the images were all there, waiting to be retrieved: the music, the atmosphere, the smell of beer and Mexican snacks, people cheering, and most of all the black bull running, panting, fighting for his life, and finally dying.

Before the Norman Mailer Conference, I had participated in psychoanalytic conferences and written papers that were published in journals. Thinking about my life and setting it down on paper was a new experience. I dug into my memories, waited for my unconscious to work through the gray areas, and a piece of my life with Dad appeared. The writing flowed, and I enjoyed it. I thought I want to do more of this. And I also thought, many books have been written about Dad, but few people know what he was like as a father. I decided to plunge into unknown territory and began writing the memoir.

Read the entire interview in Hippocampus Magazine.

Mike Reviews Didion’s LOA Volume

“A new collection of Joan Didion’s work reminds us that she is her most memorable character.” Read more in The Washington Post or right here.

Mailer Tuchman Media Debuts Film And TV Slate Anchored By Norman Mailer Drama

Mailer Tuchman Media has launched with an initial slate of film and TV projects anchored by Mailer, a drama series about the late author/provocateur.

Norman Mailer, the Moon Landing, New Journalism, and More

Mike Reviews “The Muse in Universe City” by Philip Brady

A blurb on the back cover of professor-publisher-poet Philip Brady’s new book, Phantom Signs: The Muse in Universe City (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2019) describes it as a “high-spirited flash memoir.” This phrase could lead innocent readers to anticipate juicy tales of the author’s life as an American variety of Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, a farouche academic who will take us on a frisky ride through the postmodern cultural landscape where we’ll encounter eccentric editors and nasty provosts (Brady’s particular bogeymen), attend poetry readings, ponder manuscripts and blurbs, get tutored in small press publication, pedagogical conundrums, and literary politics, all of this reamed with apercus about the miseries of social media and technology, remembrances of youthful erotic escapades, and punctuated by mildly astringent appraisals of poets past and present—Homer, Yeats, and H. L. Hix are the book’s tutelary spirits—as well as comical portraits of fellow litterateurs and beloved family members, the whole shebang battened together by droll wit and admirable forbearance. Brady’s dazzling new memoir (he wrote an earlier, more conventional one, To Prove My Blood, 2004), is all of these things, but it is the dream-like manner that he employs for the majority of the volume’s essays that transforms the volume into something rich and strange.

Read more on Hippocampus »

At the Inkwell NYC Biography Night

At The Inkwell NYC (in our NEW LOCATION at WORD Brooklyn) is delighted to feature three highly-acclaimed biographers John J. Winters, Michael Lennon, and Barbara Burkhardt.

Confessions of a Left-Conservative: Norman Mailer in the Library of America

NORMAN MAILER WOULD HAVE been ill suited for the contemporary cultural landscape. Married six times, he discarded five wives and stabbed one (an incident that led to a 17-day confinement in the psych ward at Bellevue, a conviction for third-degree assault, and five years’ probation). Overconfident, often boorish, fueled by booze and driven by a towering ego, he made a drunken ass of himself on The Dick Cavett Show in 1971 and got the stuffing knocked out of him in a debate with a panel of prominent feminists — a raucous, ragged, must-see affair captured on film in the D. A. Pennebaker/Chris Hegedus documentary Town Bloody Hall.

Read More on the LA Review of Books »

Norman Mailer and the Siege of Chicago

At the American Writers Museum to discuss Mailer and his work will be J. Michael Lennon and Maureen Corrigan. Lennon is emeritus professor of English at Wilkes University, is Norman Mailer’s archivist, editor, and authorized biographer, and president of the Norman Mailer Society. His books include Norman Mailer: “A Double Life” (2013) and “Selected Letters of Norman Mailer” (2014).

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