Excerpt from “Mailer’s Radical Bridge”

Published in Narrative 7 (Fall 1977), 170-88. “What is life but the angle of vision? A man is measured by the angle at which he looks at objects.” Emerson, “Natural History of Intellect” Norman Mailer’s development as a writer parallels at every point his growing awareness of the difficulty, and doubtful wisdom, of attempting to […]

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Comfortless was my religion, anxiety of anxieties, for I believed God was not love, but courage. Love came only as a reward.
Norman Mailer, An American Dream
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Dead Serious

An excerpt from a review of The Executioner’s Song in the Springfield State Journal-Register, November 1979   Routinely, at Gary Gilmore’s autopsy, the doctors peeled the skin back from his face as if it were a rubber mask, sawed open his skull, removed and weighed his brain. Then looking for tumors and motor system difficulties, […]

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I got a sense of the power of restraint from Hemingway, which is the smallest way to put it, because I got much more than that from him. I learned the power of simple language in English. He showed what a powerful instrument English is if you keep the language simple, if you don't use too many Latinate words. And from Faulkner I learned the exact opposite, that excess can be thrilling, that, "Don't hold yourself in. Don't rein yourself in. Go all the way. Go over the top. Overdo it." And between the two, it's almost as if you've now been given your parameters. This is the best of one extreme and this is the best of another. And somewhere between the two you may be able to find your style in time to come.
Norman Mailer, The Academy of Achievement Interview, June 12, 2004
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Repetition kills the Soul.
Norman Mailer, The Spooky Art
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But my feeling is that there's no such thing as nonfiction. Everything is fiction, because in the moment someone tries to relate an experience of what happened to them, it's gone. The reality that was felt at the moment is almost impossible to describe. It's one reason why there are writers, to come close to how it felt when it happened.
Norman Mailer, The Academy of Achievement Interview, June 12, 2004
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Violence is the last frontier in literature.
Norman Mailer, The Paris Review, 2007
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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.
Norman Mailer, Tough Guys Don’t Dance
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The natural role of twentieth-century man is anxiety.
Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead
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You know, in movie-making, parenthetically, they have a wonderful phrase: “Do what is necessary.” In other words, if you have to get a scene in before dark, the director will say, “Do what is necessary,” and what that means is, we’ll get the shot in whether it’s good or it’s bad. We’ll have it by dark because otherwise we’re lost. . . . Once you can only afford the task before you, you work quickly provided you’ve gotten yourself into a simple frame of mind. Most writing consists of getting into that simple frame of mind; it’s very, very hard to do. You know there’s so much to write about and you’ve chosen a little and that’s always irksome, and one’s always rebelling against how little there is to write about in the particular book you’ve chosen.
Norman Mailer (interviewed by Barry Leeds, 1987)
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