Selected Letters of Norman Mailer (Paperback)

By Norman Mailer, J. Michael Lennon (Editor)

Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812986105, 896pp.

Publication Date: June 9, 2015

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (12/2/2014)
Compact Disc (12/20/2016)
MP3 CD (12/20/2016)
Compact Disc (12/20/2016)

List Price: 20.00*
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Description

A genuine literary event—an illuminating collection of correspondence from one of the most acclaimed American writers of all time
 
Over the course of a nearly sixty-year career, Norman Mailer wrote more than 30 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 45,000 pieces of correspondence (approximately 20 million words), many of them deeply personal, keeping a copy of almost every one. Now the best of these are published—most for the first time—in one remarkable volume that spans seven decades and, it seems, several lifetimes. Together they form a stunning autobiographical portrait of one of the most original, provocative, and outspoken public intellectuals of the twentieth century.
 
Compiled by Mailer’s authorized biographer, J. Michael Lennon, and organized by decade, Selected Letters of Norman Mailer features the most fascinating of Mailer’s missives from 1940 to 2007—letters to his family and friends, to fans and fellow writers (including Truman Capote, James Baldwin, and Philip Roth), to political figures from Henry Kissinger to Bill and Hillary Clinton, and to such cultural icons as John Lennon, Marlon Brando, and even Monica Lewinsky.
 
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, which 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 all is.” Mailer the international celebrity pledges to William Styron, “I’m going to write every day, and like Lot’s Wife I’m consigning myself to a pillar of salt if I dare to look back,” while the 1980s 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 reflecting on 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 faces of this artist and activist, lover and fighter, public figure and private man, are laid bare in this collection as never before.

Praise for Selected Letters of Norman Mailer
 
“Extraordinary.”Vanity Fair

“As massive as the life they document . . . the autobiography [Mailer] never wrote . . . a kind of map, from the hills and rice paddies of the Philippines through every victory and defeat for the rest of the century and beyond.”Esquire

“The shards and winks at Mailer’s own past that are scattered throughout the letters . . . are so tantalizing. They glitter throughout like unrefined jewels that Mailer took to the grave.”The New Yorker
 
“Indispensable . . . a subtle document of an unsubtle man’s wit and erudition, even (or especially) when it’s wielded as a weapon.”New York
 
“Umpteen pleasures to pluck out and roll between your teeth, like seeds from a pomegranate.”The New York Times


About the Author

Born in 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Norman Mailer was one of the most influential writers of the second half of the twentieth century and a leading public intellectual for nearly sixty years. He is the author of more than thirty books. The Castle in the Forest, his last novel, was his eleventh New York Times bestseller. His first novel, The Naked and the Dead, has never gone out of print. His 1968 nonfiction narrative, The Armies of the Night, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He won a second Pulitzer for The Executioner’s Song and is the only person to date to have won Pulitzers in both fiction and nonfiction. Five of his books were nominated for National Book Awards, and he won a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation in 2005. Norman Mailer died in 2007 in New York City.
 
J. Michael Lennon is Norman Mailer’s archivist and authorized biographer, and 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, including Norman Mailer: A Double Life, Norman Mailer: Works and Days, and On God: An Uncommon Conversation. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and New York, among others. He lives in Westport, Massachusetts.


Praise For Selected Letters of Norman Mailer

“Extraordinary.”Vanity Fair
 
“As massive as the life they document . . . In reading Mailer’s correspondence as the autobiography he never wrote, these [letters] provide a kind of map, from the hills and rice paddies of the Philippines through every victory and defeat for the rest of the century and beyond.”Esquire
 
“The shards and winks at Mailer’s own past that are scattered throughout the letters—the stories of friendships and of family, of his identity-forming relationship with his mother and his ‘Victorian childhood’ surrounded by loving women, of his street-corner adolescence and his erotic and literary awakening . . . are so tantalizing. They glitter throughout like unrefined jewels that Mailer took to the grave.”The New Yorker
 
“[Selected Letters of Norman Mailer has] umpteen pleasures to pluck out and roll between your teeth, like seeds from a pomegranate.”The New York Times
 
“Indispensable . . . a subtle document of an unsubtle man’s wit and erudition, even (or especially) when it’s wielded as a weapon.”New York
 
“A thrilling and revealing collection of correspondence . . . With their unguarded directness, the letters allow us access to [Mailer’s] naked thought. . . . providing the asides and stage whispers that shape the life and career into a compelling theatre of the creative self.”The Guardian (U.K.)

“Mailer’s correspondence offers an intimate look at the author in all his variety: filial, pugnacious, collegial, spiteful, affectionate, defiant and generous by turn.”—BBC
 
“[A] meticulously edited collection of letters . . . It’s hard to imagine any American novelist today living as large, varied, and morally complex a life as Mailer’s. And among the emotions these letters may evoke in readers is nostalgia for a time when an American writer could imagine—somewhat innocently perhaps—that his words were an essential part of the national conversation.”The Daily Beast
 
“[Norman Mailer] contained multitudes. . . . The preponderant majority of letters here are by the private Mailer who could be remarkably tender, courtly, generous, sensitive, eloquent and brilliant and, for good measure, equally block-headed, arrogant, naive and blinded by self-delusion. . . . It’s what makes this, far and away, the most important and compelling book by or about Norman Mailer in decades.”The Buffalo News

“Norman Mailer lived large. So it’s no surprise his correspondents included just about everyone who was anyone in twentieth-century America, and why Selected Letters of Norman Mailer is such a scintillating read.”—WBUR

“Mailer’s ambition to be the greatest writer of his generation is made clear in his stylish, sophisticated letters. . . . A list of Mailer’s correspondents reads like a guide to twentieth-century history and literature. . . . [Michael J.] Lennon proves an ideal guide, expertly assembling a tidal wave of letters into a tidy, chronological selection. In the end, Mailer’s letters stand as the best autobiography available for such a complicated and extraordinary life.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Offers the fascinating complexities of a deeply intelligent individual.”Booklist

“An intriguing look at a particularly influential life of letters and a treat for Mailer fans.”Kirkus Reviews

“Mailer’s letters reinforce the idea that Mailer himself was his most complex creation: the blithely gargantuan demands of his imagination shaped his life was well as his fiction and journalism.”The Arts Fuse


From the Hardcover edition.