New and Selected Remembrances of a Life in Literature

Lennon’s remembrances in this collection are linked by his attempt to understand his relationship to his putative parent, Norman Mailer, a need intensified by his decades-long confusion about his relationship to his actual father. The literary essays and reviews that take up the middle of this collection are about people, writers for the most part, whose work Mailer admired, or were his literary colleagues and/or rivals.

This book of essays by Norman Mailer’s biographer, Dr. J. Michael Lennon, collect personal and literary reminiscences, insights, and investigations from the last half century.  Through the rising action of his life in literature, Lennon’s remembrances track the influence not only of his literary pater familias, Norman Mailer, but his actual father, a booze-bitten blue-collar bibliophile with his own reputation for genius, and how together these mentors forged and focused the 20/20 literary vision Lennon takes to the work of some of the greatest writers of the Twentieth Century, from Baldwin and Bishop to Didion and DeLillo and, not least, Mailer himself.

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J. Michael Lennon is a robust critic and biographer who, in these lively pieces, summons a whole world of great American writers and thinkers in their time.  Not incidentally, he offers an astute and compelling portrait of himself as well – an unexpected tale of immersion in life stories.  This is one of those books one calls “delicious.”  It’s not easy to stop eating once you start.

Jay Parini, author of The Last Station and Borges and Me

Thoughtful and erudite with surprising twists of humor, J. Michael Lennon’s Mailer’s Last Days is an exciting blend of literary genres. It is a master class in American and English Literature with poignant episodes of  his own life as a boy, as a novice professor, as Mailer’s biographer, archivist and close friend. The  book takes us on a journey to the work of writers  such as Joan Didion, Don DeLillo, James Jones, Graham Greene, Elizabeth Bishop and Ezra Pound. In a nutshell, it’s an immersion into the American cultural and literary life of the Twentieth Century.

Susan Mailer, author of In Another Place: With and Without My Father, Norman Mailer

J. Michael Lennon elevates literary sensibilities as he seamlessly blends memoir, essays, and reviews in his innovative collection. With adroit storytelling marked by wit, honesty, and awareness, Lennon crafts arresting tales that create the portrait of a biographer. Lennon’s enthralling prose is a joy to read. 

Nancy McKinley, author of St. Christopher on Pluto 

Lively, informative, by turns analytical and poignant, Michael Lennon’s omnium gatherum opens a wide window on the post-war American literary scene, framed by Mailer’s astonishing career. Baldwin, Bishop, Didion, Jones, Lowell, McCarthy, Stone, and Vidal are among those who appear in this rich collection. And beneath it all, beats the book’s true heart: Lennon’s pursuit of his own distant father and his “adopted father”—Norman Mailer.

Robert J. Begiebing, author of  Norman Mailer at 100: Conversations, Correlations, Confrontations 

J. Michael Lennon accompanies us on a journey through American literary life, introducing us to the greats he’s known, and pointing out, with sympathy unusual among distinguished critics, that perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a creative soul is to become famous.

Charles J. Shields, author of Loraine Hansberry: The Life Behind A Raisin in the Sun

One would be hard pressed to find a more eloquent gentleman than Michael J. Lennon—scholar, raconteur, devourer of books and connoisseur of the stories behind them. That Lennon has come out from behind the scenes of literary legend Norman Mailer’s life and oeuvre is a gift not only to the first-rate literature of which he writes but to anyone who loves good stories with a dash of sass, a dose of philosophy and big gulpfuls of heart. A hybrid of biography, memoir, and criticism this book is so compelling I wanted more Lennon long after the last page. I cannot praise this book enough.

Beverly Donofrio, author of Riding in Cars with Boys and Astonished

By turns deeply personal and remarkably selfless in its attention to others, this uniquely devised memoir is also a moving love letter to literature. Each essay is eloquent, erudite, and engaging, an inspiring testament to the value of Lennon’s literary life, and the abiding and meaningful friendship it yielded.  

Maggie McKinley, author of Understanding Norman Mailer

I loved this book, and not simply because I have an endless appetite for Mailer, but because Lennon has satisfied a craving I didn’t know I had: for a collection that packs the emotion of a memoir and the insight of literary criticism. It’s a candid, original, beautifully written collection that provides moving portraits of two powerful writers and the intersection of their lives.

Jonathan Eig, Ali, A Life