Mike discusses the Library of America’s new volumes on Norman Mailer’s works of the sixties.
Norman Mailer: The Sixties is a two-volume set that includes four full-length books and 33 essays chronicling the culture, politics and dramatic events of that era. Volume one includes two of his novels – An American Dream and Why Are We in Vietnam? – and two of his most important works of nonfiction, The Armies of the Night and Miami and the Siege of Chicago. The collection of essays in volume two opens with “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,“ Mailer’s memorable account of John F. Kennedy as a presidential candidate at the Democratic Party’s 1960 convention. Other essays bring to life important figures of the day – from Jackie Kennedy to William F. Buckley – and examine important issues of the era, including race and the war in Vietnam.
Any writer of nonfiction or memoir owes a debt to Mailer, who pioneered techniques that came to define nonfiction, memoir and the New Journalism. I interviewed J. Michael Lennon, Norman Mailer’s authorized biographer, to discuss the work included in the Sixties collection and what lessons they hold for nonfiction writers today. Lennon’s books include Norman Mailer: A Double Life and Selected Letters of Norman Mailer. Lennon is emeritus professor of English at Wilkes University, where he teaches in the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing.