A Double Life
By J. Michael Lennon
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781439150191, 928pp.)
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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From the biographer who knew Norman Mailer for decades comes the definitive, authorized portrait of the eminent novelist, journalist, and controversial public figure, based on extensive interviews and unpublished letters.
Norman Mailer was the one of the most famous writers of his generation, a figure as notorious for his stormy romances and quarrels with other writers as he was respected for his numerous bestsellers and literary accolades. In this candid biography, J. Michael Lennon brings a wealth of research informed by his years of personal acquaintance with Mailer, as well as the cooperation of Mailer’s family, to reveal the life and work of an American legend.
In a career that produced eleven bestsellers, Mailer lived through every great postwar event of the twentieth century and commented on many of them. From his initial success with his World War II novel The Naked and the Dead, through his observations on the convulsive 1960s in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Armies of the Night, to his own quixotic run for mayor of New York City, his life was a reflection of the turbulent times in which he lived. A man of sharp complexities, he was loved and loathed, the most prominent public intellectual of his time, at once an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and the bête noir of the women’s rights movement. Lennon explores Mailer’s dualities: journalist and activist, devoted family man (he was married six times and was the father of nine children) and notorious philanderer, intellectual and fighter, writer and public figure, all of them evolving through Mailer’s self-conscious effort to create a distinctive identity for himself.
Capturing this protean life as never before, Norman Mailer: A Double Life gives us the man in full—a remarkable and unique figure, a giant in the context of his time.
J. Michael Lennon is Emeritus Vice President for Academic Affairs and Emeritus Professor of English at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. In addition to being chair of the editorial board of The Mailer Review, he has written or edited several books about and with Mailer.
Alan Cheuse reviews the new biography Norman Mailer: A Double Life by J. Michael Lennon. The book is 900 pages long and comes from an admiring biographer with incredible access to Mailer, who died six years ago. More at NPR.org
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“In the hands of this superb biographer, Norman Mailer comes vividly to life—irresistible, brilliant, formidable, hungry for fame, and endlessly fascinating. Lennon’s great achievement lies in matching Mailer’s energy and talent with his own. This is surely one of the best biographies ever written of an American writer.”
-Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of The Bully Pulpit and Team of Rivals
“Lennon captures Mailer brilliantly—in all his guises and disguises. At the heart of Mailer’s writing was a selfishness to live as many lives as possible, coupled with a deep and elusive empathy. He kept slipping into new times, and geographies, losing himself there. The only things worth doing were the things that might break a heart—and indeed he broke many. Lennon looks at a literary life with great compassion and comprehensive accuracy. A biography for scholars and readers alike.”
-Colum McCann, author of TransAtlantic and Let the Great World Spin
“Norman Mailer lived a big, brash, bawdy, belligerent life, and J. Michael Lennon has captured every moment of it.”
-Deirdre Bair, author of Saul Steinberg and Samuel Beckett
"Mailer comes alive on every page, often in his own words, compulsive in his self-overcoming, in his ‘Napoleonic’ battling with peers and critics to become America’s number-one writer, and in his often self-destructive dealings with the world he wanted to analyze (and did) and conquer (not quite). This biography is brisk and electric, a vigorous panorama of the ‘singular, unprecedented and irreplaceable’ life that Norman Mailer lived."
-William Kennedy, author of Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes and Ironweed