Norman Mailer was known for his toughness and temper, and his letters have plenty of that, but they also show his kindness and generosity with other writers.
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Norman Mailer entered Harvard in the fall of 1939, just as World War II began. His famous novel about part of that war, The Naked and the Dead, was published in 1948, and at age 25, like Lord Byron, he awoke to find himself famous. Sixty years later, looking back on the book’s immense success—it topped the New York Times Book Review’s bestseller list for 11 consecutive weeks and remained on that list for 62 more—he commented on the experience of sudden fame: “I knew I’d be a celebrity when I came back to America [he and his wife were living in Paris] and I felt very funny towards it, totally unprepared. . . . I’ve always seen myself as an observer. And now I knew, realized, that I was going to be an actor on the American stage, so to speak.”