This is a quick note to alert those who may be in the environs of two upcoming readings from Norman Mailer: A Double Life. The first event will be at The Mount, former home of Edith Wharton, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on August 4, 4-6 p.m. The reading is sold out, but there is a telecast in adjoining room. Also, I am told there is a waiting list because of possible cancellations.
On August 15, at 5 p.m., I will be at the Provincetown Public Library. Susan Mailer will introduce me (thanks Sue!).
The Selected Letters of Norman Mailer has a firm publication date of December 2. Review copies can be obtained from Caitlin McKenna of Random House.
The edition runs to 860 pages and contains 714 of Mailer letters to about 350 different people, including many of the leading writers of Mailer’s era: Henry Miller, Mary McCarthy, Truman Capote, Lillian Hellman, Lillian Ross, Robert Lowell, William Styron, John Irving, Alfred Kazin, James Jones, James Baldwin, Dwight Macdonald, Arthur Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Saul Bellow, Jimmy Breslin, Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates and Philip Roth. Here is the flap copy:
Over the course of a nearly seventy-year career, Norman Mailer wrote more than thirty novels, essay collections, and nonfiction books. Yet nowhere was he more prolific—or more exposed—than in his letters. All told, Mailer crafted more than forty-five thousand pieces (approximately 25 million words) of deeply personal correspondence, keeping a copy of almost every one. Now, the best of these are published—most for the very first time—in one stunning volume that spans five decades and, it seems, several lifetimes.
Compiled by Mailer’s authorized biographer J. Michael Lennon and organized by decade, The Selected Letters of Norman Mailer features the most fascinating of Mailer’s missives from 1939 to 2007—letters to his family and friends; fans and fellow writers (including Truman Capote, James Baldwin, and Phillip Roth); political figures from Henry Kissinger to Bill and Hillary Clinton; and such cultural icons as John Lennon, Marlon Brando, and even Monica Lewinsky. Together they form a stunning autobiographical portrait of one of the most original, provocative, and outspoken public intellectuals of the twentieth century.
Here is Mailer the precocious Harvard undergraduate, writing home to his parents for the first time and worrying that his acceptances by literary magazines were “all happening too easy.” Here, too, is Mailer the soldier, confronting the violence of war in the Pacific that would become the subject of his masterly debut novel The Naked and the Dead: “[I’m] amazed how casually it fits into . . . daily life, how very unhorrible it is.” Mailer the international celebrity grapples with the vicissitudes of newfound fame (“Life is really rather extravagant [now],” while the ‘80s Mailer agonizes over the fallout from his ill-fated friendship with Jack Henry Abbott, the murderer who became his literary protégé. (“The continuation of our relationship was depressing for both of us,” he confesses to Joyce Carol Oates). At last, he finds domestic—and erotic—bliss in the arms of his sixth wife, Norris Church (“We bounce into each other like sunlight”).
Whether he is opining about the Kennedy assassination, assessing the merits of authors from Fitzgerald to Proust, or threatening to pummel William Styron, the brilliant, pugnacious Norman Mailer comes alive again in these letters. The myriad lives of this lover and fighter, artist and activist, public figure and private man are laid bare in this collection as never before.
You can order a copy of The Selected Letters of Norman Mailer from Amazon.
In September, Taschen Books will publish a new edition of “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” lavishly illustrated, with my introduction. And on October 28, the paperback of my biography will be published by Simon & Schuster.
I hope everyone is having a terrific summer, and that our paths cross soon.
p.s. There are many new posts on my website; please take a look. It also has information on the upcoming Mailer Society meeting (October 8-11) at Wilkes University, and the Mailer Center Gala, October 27, at the New York Public Library.