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The Gospel According to Norman

Two new books wrestle with Mailer’s myths and his legacy.

The Great American Novel

Did Norman Mailer live it instead?

Star Trib Review

On balance, Lennon does, however, reveal his subject’s double life, his honesty and deceitfulness, and his remarkably self-deluding but self-aware sensibility. If not the last word on Norman Mailer (what could be?), this book is likely to be the standard biography for this generation.

Review of Bio on SFGate

J. Michael Lennon’s “Norman Mailer: A Double Life” is a perceptive biography, one with a keen understanding of his work, his mind and his darkest impulses (notably, the stabbing of his second wife).

Bio Stunning and Super

Norman Mailer is now naked and dead. Should it’s time to catch up the the (crazy) hero’s double life. And so there’s the stunning Norman Mailer: A Double Life, author J. Michael Lennon presents the definitive portrait of one of the most important and controversial figures in American literary and cultural life in the second half of the 20th-century. The authorized biographer knew his subject for decades and had unfettered access to Mailer’s voluminous papers, unpublished letters, family members and acquaintances.

The Barnstable Patriot Review

There are roughly 747 pages to Lennon’s biography, and quite a bit of intimacy packed into it. There are times when I felt as though I was peeking through the Mailers’ keyhole, other times their porch window. Either way, J. Michael Lennon has rendered an author who was arguably one of our greatest in such a way that feels as though he’s just stepped through the door.

The Independent Review

What’s perhaps most striking about this biography is just how well Lennon draws together the complex tangle of contradictions that Mailer embodied and gives them a logical sheen. He knew his subject well: Lennon first met Mailer in 1972 and remained his close friend, seeing him regularly up until his death. On his website, Lennon says that Mailer felt comfortable in the company of Irish-Americans. “I’ve always loved the Irish and felt very close to them,” Mailer explained at one point. “The Irish have this great bravura, a style, an elegance.”

Biography paints intimate portrait of revered author Norman Mailer

The Jewish Advocate reviews the biography (subscription required). Here are a couple of excerpts: “J. Michael Lennon’s biography ‘Norman Mailer: A Double Life’ (Simon and Schuster), released in mid-October, makes Mailer’s voice come alive. It’s almost as if Mailer himself is sitting at the kitchen table having a conversation with you over a glass of scotch. [. . .] Lennon delivers without producing any judgment, letting the facts unfold – sometimes humorously, sometimes tragically. [. . .] Lennon gives us a human look at a flawed man who redefined American literature and invented a new form of journalism. ‘Norman Mailer: A Double Life’ is the Mailer bible for all interested in reading about this extraordinary man and his times.”

The Guardian Review

Lover, fighter, saint and sinner – a fascinating biography skilfully traces the contradictions that defined Norman Mailer.

Financial Times Reviews the Bio

The subtitle “A Double Life” serves as Lennon’s governing premise for exploring how Mailer’s personal life mattered to his writing life and vice versa, but he does far more than merely affirm this abundantly obvious, abundantly volatile relationship. He makes strong cases throughout the biography for the inherent strengths of Mailer’s writing, particularly his achievements in reconceptualising the possibilities of journalism.

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