J. Michael Lennon

Archivist, Biographer, Educator

Category: Mailer Page 1 of 5

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 »

Mike’s Interview with Hippocampus Magazine

Mike discusses the Library of America’s new volumes on Norman Mailer’s works of the sixties.

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Interview with WAMC

No writer plunged more wholeheartedly into the chaotic energies of the 1960s than Norman Mailer, as he fearlessly revolutionized literary norms and genres to capture the political, social, and sexual explosions of an unsettled era.

Listen on WAMC.

The Naked and the Read

Books arrived daily by mail, FedEx, or by hand on the doorstep – a half-dozen was not unusual. At social functions, airports, readings, while he was walking to dinner along the waterfront of Provincetown, or riding the A Train to Manhattan from Brooklyn, people pressed books into his hands. Not that Norman Mailer was short of books; his library, at four different locations, amounted to more than 7,000 volumes. His last wife, Norris Church, referred to them as Kudzu, the pernicious creeping vine that covers large swathes of the American South. As fast as she gave them away, they reappeared on every flat surface in their two homes. Norman, she said, spent $1,000 a month on books, and received a large number gratis from writers in search of a recommendation.

The Private Thoughts of a Public Man

The Ambitions and Insecurities of Literary Giant Norman Mailer

Special Friends

Young in Springfield, Lincoln enjoyed a deep relationship with Joshua Speed.

In 1834, Joshua Speed, an ambitious young man from a well-to-do Kentucky family, set up a dry goods store in a two-story brick house on the corner of Fifth and Washington Streets in Springfield. Located on the town square in the commercial and governmental heart of what would become the state capital five years later, Speed’s store thrived financially. By 1839, it was also a gathering place for the male “lights” of the community, men who sought a congenial spot for coffee and cider, professional exchanges and gossip, political discourse (sometimes sharp-edged), and storytelling (often comic). Stephen Douglas, later an Illinois senator, often joined the group, as did several prominent judges, businessmen, lawyers and legislators. But Abraham Lincoln, who had only recently been admitted to the bar, was the magnet, the charismatic speaker who drew the intellectuals and politicians to the regular evening meetings.

Bad Day

Being a writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.

Norman Mailer

Lance Mannion: Mailer in Hollywood

Bogging down in J. Michael Lennon’s biography of Norman Mailer, A Double Life, just about the point where I’d have expected. The Naked and the Dead is a bestseller and Mailer’s trying to cope with his newly acquired celebrity—mostly by sleeping with as many women as he can find time to—hanging out in Hollywood, looking to sell the screen rights and struggling to come up with an idea for his next novel.

Which puts him in the same position he’ll be in for the rest of his life. A celebrity writer whose fame and reputation rest on his being a great novelist but who has no more great novels in him to write.

What’s Become of the So-Called Literary Bad Boy?

Each week in Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, James Parker and Rivka Galchen discuss what has become of the so-called literary bad boy.

The Ten Best Norman Mailer Books

In 1948, a 25-year-old World War II veteran leaped into prominence with a number one best-selling novel about his combat experience in the Pacific, The Naked and the Dead. Over the next 60 years he wrote across a range of genres: biography and memoir, a column in the Village Voice, crime and sports narratives, poetry and short stories, several film scripts, and ten more novels of astounding variety.

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