Norman Mailer has been a hero of mine for most of my adult life. I’ve read most of his voluminous output over the years, and loved it, by and large, although it’s been awhile since I’ve read anything of his. Now, when we are all reflecting on his legacy, I find myself agreeing with this guy.
I took Mailer very seriously. I made attempts to live by his philosophical pronouncements, but he was so wrong about so much of it. For example:
1. Cancer is caused by some kind of psychic repression, the lineaments of which only Mailer himself understood.
2. Sex is all about manhood and courage and testing oneself against the great mystery of woman, and any sex that is not exactly and only that will give you cancer.
3. All technology is the work of the Devil; computers, synthetic fibers, modern architecture, Xerox machines, LSD, you name it, and partaking of it will give you cancer.
4. There is something purifying about violence, even of the most egregious, psychopathic sort.
Now, of course, there are bits of truths in all that, and God bless Norman for beating us over the head with them. I have to admit I have learned valuable stuff from him, but I’m not sure it makes up for the unfortunate karma accumulated by swallowing too literal an interpretation of his gospels.
Here’s my list, in order of my estimation, of his books that I have read:
The Executioner’s Song
Armies of the Night
The Naked and the Dead
The Gospel According to the Son
An American Dream
Advertisements for Myself
The Prisoner of Sex
Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery
The Barbary Shore
Why Are We in Vietnam?
I could be wrong, but I don’t expect to ever read or re-read anything by him ever again.