Sunday, November 11, 2007

Norman Mailer

Award-winning author Norman Mailer passed away yesterday at age 84.

Mailer burst upon the scene in 1948 with his first novel, The Naked And The Dead, drawn from his experiences in World War II. He wrote a variety of articles, novels, and works of journalism over the following years, but many felt the author never reached his true potential. He won two Pulizer Prizes, the first for The Armies Of The Night, his 1968 account of the peace march on the Pentagon, and for The Executioner's Song, a sensationalized version of the life and death of Gary Gilmore, who became famous by his execution at the hands of a Utah firing squad.

Mailer also gained attention as a shining example of an egotistical, hard-headed, macho writer. Known for his drinking, fighting, and womanizing, he broke an actor's jaw while directing a movie, bit Rip Torn's ear in another scuffle, and allegedly head-butted Truman Capote, whom he especially disliked. Married six times, he stabbed his second wife with a penknife while drunk and nearly killed her. Amazingly, she never pressed charges.

I haven't read much of Mailer's work; to me he seemed to have a hard time keeping his ego out of his writing. One interesting example of Mailer's work available online is "The White Negro", an essay on hipness published by Dissent magazine in 1957.