Mailer, Norman

born Jan. 31, 1923, Long Branch, N.J., U.S.

U.S. novelist.

He studied at Harvard University. He drew on his wartime service in the Pacific for his celebrated novel The Naked and the Dead (1948), which established him as one of the major American writers of the postwar decades. A flamboyant and controversial figure who often enjoyed antagonizing critics and readers, he has since commanded less respect for his fiction
which also includes the novels An American Dream (1965) and Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967)
than for journalistic works that convey actual events with the richness of novels, including The Armies of the Night (1968, Pulitzer Prize); Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968); Of a Fire on the Moon (1970); and The Executioner's Song (1979, Pulitzer Prize), about the execution of a murderer. Mailer was a favourite target of feminists in the 1960s and '70s.

Mailer, 1968

Newsweek photo by Bernard Gotfryd, Copyright Newsweek, 1968

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▪ American author
in full  Norman Kingsley Mailer 
born Jan. 31, 1923, Long Branch, N.J., U.S.
died Nov. 10, 2007, New York, N.Y.

      American novelist and journalist, best known for using a form of journalism—called New Journalism—that combines the imaginative subjectivity of literature with the more objective qualities of journalism. Both Mailer's fiction and his nonfiction made a radical critique of the totalitarianism he believed inherent in the centralized power structure of 20th- and 21st-century America.

      Mailer grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Harvard University in 1943 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. Drafted into the army in 1944, he served in the Pacific until 1946. While he was enrolled at the Sorbonne, in Paris, he wrote The Naked and the Dead (1948), hailed immediately as one of the finest American novels to come out of World War II.

      Mailer's success at age 25 aroused the expectation that he would develop from a war novelist into the leading literary figure of the postwar generation. But Mailer's search for themes and forms to give meaningful expression to what he saw as the problems of his time committed him to exploratory works that had little general appeal. His second novel, Barbary Shore (1951), and The Deer Park (1955) were greeted with critical hostility and mixed reviews, respectively. His next important work was a long essay, The White Negro (1957), a sympathetic study of a marginal social type—the “hipster.”

      In 1959, when Mailer was generally dismissed as a one-book author, he made a bid for attention with the book Advertisements for Myself, a collection of unfinished stories, parts of novels, essays, reviews, notebook entries, or ideas for fiction. The miscellany's naked self-revelation won the admiration of a younger generation seeking alternative styles of life and art. Mailer's subsequent novels, though not critical successes, were widely read as guides to life. An American Dream (1965) is about a man who murders his wife, and Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967) is about a young man on an Alaskan hunting trip.

      A controversial figure whose egotism and belligerence often antagonized both critics and readers, Mailer did not command the same respect for his fiction that he received for his journalism, which conveyed actual events with the subjective richness and imaginative complexity of a novel. The Armies of the Night (1968), for example, was based on the Washington peace demonstrations of October 1967, during which Mailer was jailed and fined for an act of civil disobedience; it won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award (National Book Awards). A similar treatment was given the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions in Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968) and the Moon exploration in Of a Fire on the Moon (1970).

 In 1969 Mailer ran unsuccessfully for mayor of New York City. Among his other works are his essay collections The Presidential Papers (1963) and Cannibals and Christians (1966); The Executioner's Song (1979), a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel based on the life of convicted murderer Gary Gilmore; Ancient Evenings (1983), a novel set in ancient Egypt, the first volume of an uncompleted trilogy; Tough Guys Don't Dance (1984), a contemporary mystery thriller; and the enormous Harlot's Ghost (1991), a novel focusing on the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1995 Mailer published Oswald's Tale, an exhaustive nonfictional portrayal of U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy's assassin. Mailer's final two novels intertwined religion and historical figures: The Gospel According to the Son (1997) is a first-person “memoir” purportedly written by Jesus Christ, and The Castle in the Forest (2007), narrated by a devil, tells the story of Adolf Hitler's boyhood.

      In 2003 Mailer published two works of nonfiction: The Spooky Art, his reflections on writing, and Why Are We at War?, an essay questioning the Iraq War. On God (2007) records conversations about religion between Mailer and the scholar Michael Lennon.

Additional Reading
Two works on the life of Mailer are Carl Rollyson, The Lives of Norman Mailer (1991); and Adele Mailer, The Last Party: Scenes from My Life with Norman Mailer (1997). Critical interpretations include Richard Poirier, Norman Mailer (1972); Laura Adams, Existential Battles: The Growth of Norman Mailer (1976); Philip H. Bufithis, Norman Mailer (1978); Robert Merrill, Norman Mailer Revisited (1992); and Michael K. Glenday, Norman Mailer (1995).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • MAILER, NORMAN — (1923– ), U.S. novelist and essayist. Born in New Jersey, Mailer grew up in New York City and attended Harvard College. His two years with the U.S. Army in the Pacific theater during World War II provided him with the background for his… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Mailer, Norman — ► (n. 1923) Novelista y director de cine estadounidense. Causó honda impresión su primera obra, Los desnudos y los muertos (1948). En sus obras posteriores, los personajes llegan a la locura o a la derrota en el choque con la realidad: El parque… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Mailer, Norman — (b. 1923)    US novelist. Mailer first sprang to fame with The Naked and the Dead (1948), a novel of the war in the Pacific. This was followed by Barbary Shore (1951) and The Deer Park (1955). An exhibitionist with a pungent style and radical… …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Mailer,Norman — Mail·er (māʹlər), Norman. Born 1923. American writer. Acclaimed for his World War II novel The Naked and the Dead (1948), he established New Journalism with his accounts of political events in the 1960s. Mailer s other works include The Deer Park …   Universalium

  • Mailer, Norman — (b. 1923)    American novelist. He was raised in Brooklyn and studied at Harvard. He published The Naked and the Dead, a novel about war in the Pacific. This was followed by Barbary Shore and The Deer Park. Other works include Armies in the Night …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Mailer, Norman —    см. Мейлер, Норман …   Писатели США. Краткие творческие биографии

  • Mailer, Norman Kingsley — ▪ 2008  American novelist and journalist born Jan. 31, 1923, Long Branch, N.J. died Nov. 10, 2007, New York, N.Y. was best known for using a form of journalism called New Journalism that combines the imaginative subjectivity of literature with… …   Universalium

  • Mailer, Norman Kingsley — (1923 2007)    Born in Long Branch, New Jersey, and brought up in Brooklyn, New York, Norman Mailer graduated with a B.S. from Harvard in 1943 and was drafted into the army during World War II. The experience he gained during the war in the… …   Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era

  • Mailer — Mailer, Norman …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Norman Mailer — photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1948 Born Norman Kingsley Mailer January 31, 1923(1923 01 31) Long Branch, New Jersey, U.S …   Wikipedia

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