BOOKS AND ARTS NOVEMBER 13, 2007
On Saturday, Norman Mailer, a larger-than-life American literary figure, passed away from kidney failure. Below, a collection of some of The New Republic’s writing on Mailer--with a few notes from the pugilistic author himself.
In 1959, Mailer wrote to TNR, complaining that his opinion of Truman Capote's literary talent has been mischaracterized--but admitting that the error was due to him expressing himself incoherently during an appearance on the TV show "Open End."
Joseph Epstein labelled Mailer "The Literary Man's Cassius Clay" in 1965, chanting "I am the Greatest!" without having ever really earned the title.
John Wain was happily reminded that Mailer is more than a simple “stunt-merchant” in a piece from 1966.
In 1968, Richard Gilman found himself pleasantly surprised that Mailer, in his book The Armies of the Night, had finally written something that could accomodate his ambitions.
Mailer published a sacred-and-profane poem in TNR in 1974, weighted towards the profane. It was dedicated to Hemingway.
Paul Berman asked in 1995 whether Mailer's obsessive book about Lee Harvey Oswald in the USSR indicated his own madness.
In a 1997 cover story, James Wood slammed Mailer's attempt to re-write an improved version of the Bible.
Earlier this year, Ruth Franklin argued that Mailer's attempt at writing a super-sexualized Hitler was obscene--and stupid.
And, in our last issue, literary editor Leon Wieseltier opined in a “Washington Diarist” that Mailer's tacky mysticism was enough to make him give atheism a second chance.