With Stig Abell and Thea Lenarduzzi – 500-plus years since Thomas More coined the term “Utopia”, denoting a too-good-to-be-true land, Chloë Houston considers the relevance, and importance, of Utopian thinking, and asks if we feel more at home in dystopia; prompted by a magisterial new biography by Jonathan Eig, J. Michael Lennon describes the transformation of Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali (and tells us what it was like to meet Ali at Normal Mailer’s seventy-fifth birthday party).
Before anyone foresaw a time when a television celebrity could become president, Norman Mailer wrote in Esquire that John F. Kennedy was a mythical hero who could finally unite the business of politics with the business of stardom. His legendary 1960 reported essay, “Superman Comes to the Supermart,” about J.F.K. and the Democratic political convention, changed the rules for how we understand our political candidates as brands, and how we’re allowed to write about them. Mailer archivist and biographer J. Michael Lennon joins host David Brancaccio to discuss Mailer’s legacy, what his essay wrought, and how it continues to ripple through our political culture and be proven prescient again and again.
Thanks to Justin Bozung, The Norman Mailer Society Podcast is now live on iTunes. Mike is featured in the first episode — posted here a few days ago — and new episodes will be published every two weeks. Please subscribe using iTunes and support the on-going efforts of Project Mailer.
In this inaugural episode of the Norman Mailer Society Podcast, host Justin Bozung speaks with Mike about The Selected Letters of Norman Mailer, Mailer’s ’60s ambitions, The Deer Park, Picasso, and The Naked & The Dead.
Hour 1: J. Michael Lennon on the “Selected Letters of Norman Mailer” — Lennon says Mailer never tossed a single thing he ever wrote.
J. Michael Lennon, who is at work on an authorized biography of Norman Mailer, speaks with Sasha Weiss about Mailer’s letters and what they reveal about his ambitions, his relationships with other writers, and his enduring obsessions.