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Norman Mailer Poster

Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Long Branch, New Jersey, USA
Died in New York City, New York, USA  (renal failure)
Birth NameNorman Kingsley Mailer

Mini Bio (1)

Norman Mailer, the Brooklyn-born and -bred writer who fought for what he characterized as the "heavyweight championship" of American letters after the 1961 death of Ernest Hemingway, never came close to his dream of writing the Great American novel, but he was a colossus of American culture and literature in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. When he died in 2007 at the age of 84, Mailer towered above all other American writers of his and subsequent generations,according to his "New York Times" obituary. A primal life force whose writing elucidated the human condition among America and Americans better than any of his contemporaries for better than three decades, Mailer likely will rank with Herman Melville and Hemingway as among the greatest writers produced by the United States. Although denied the Nobel Prize that he had long coveted (winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, Mailer believed that the near-fatal stabbing of his second-wife Adele Morales by himself in 1960 attributed to his failure to win the big prize), Mailer will be the writer that future generations go to to understand the America of the late 1940s through at least the early '80s. "Advertisements for Myself" (1959), "See You in Hell, Darling (1966)" (1965), "The Armies of the Night" (1969) and "Executioners Song, The (1980) (TV)_" -- one compendium of odds and ends interlaced with Mailer's musings, one novel, and two books of "journalism" that he classified as novels -- will be mandatory on the reading lists of universities 100 years in the future.

Norman Mailer was born in January 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, to Fanny (Schneider), who ran a nursing/housekeeping agency, and Isaac Barnett Mailer, an accountant. His family was Jewish. Mailer entered Harvard College in 1939 at the age of 16 to study engineering at a time when there was still a quota on Jews at the Ivy League universities, to keep them the province of the WASPs that still controlled the control up to and through World War II. (Mailer would be a commentator on WASPs and their loosening grip on America and American culture in the post-World War II period. He saw the space project and the landing of a man on the moon as the apotheosis of WASP culture.) He fell in love with literature at Harvard, and began his first attempts at creative writing. Mailer took his degree in 1943, was drafted into the Army the following year and served briefly with a rifle company in the Philippines. His experiences as an infantryman would be the genesis of his 1948 novel "The Naked and The Dead", one of the first of the World War II novels written by the men who had fought it.

Mailer would never have termed the generation that went to war in 1941-45 "The Greatest Generation", a concept alien to such post-war writers as Mailer's erstwhile friend James Jones (author of "From Here to Eternity", "Catch-22" author Joseph Heller, or populist American historian Howard Zinn, all of whom served in the War. The officers and enlisted men of Mailer's novel "The Naked and the Dead" are not saints, nor are they on noble missions, let alone quests for something as abstract as "democracy". Democracy is not a staple of Norman Mailer's Army. The officers, as a class, represent an insidious form of fascism -- in kind, if not degree -- in this war against fascism. Published in 1948, "The Naked and The Dead" was a bestseller and made its 25 year old author famous and relatively well-off, financially. Mailer would never have to toil at any craft other than writing for the rest of the nearly 60 years allotted to him. His next two novels, "Barbary Shore" (1951) and "The Deer Park" (1954) were artistic and commercial failures. For 10 years after the publication of "The Deer Park" until "An American Dream" (serialized in "Esquire Magazine" in 1964, rewritten and published as a novel in 1965), Mailer eschewed tackling another novel. Instead, he turned to journalism and revolutionized what had been one of the ghettos of American letters. If there had been no Norman Mailer, perhaps there would have been a "New Journalism", but it would have been poorer as he was its greatest exponent. "New Journalism" was a moniker hung on a particularly personal type of reflection added to the pedantic Who, What, Where & How? of traditional reporting. Rather than exile himself from the story in the interest of an impossible-to-obtain "neutrality" that is so dear to the mainstream American newspaper and magazine culture currying favor with advertisers beyond the truss & body building equipment slums of the old "Men's magazines", Mailer injected himself into the story and wrote about how he was effected by events. His seminal article about the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, "Superman Comes to the Supermarket" (Superman being John F. Kennedy and the Supermarket the Los Angeles where the DNC was held, as well as the new post-War America at large") might very well be considered as the starting point of the New Journalism. The article was published in the November 1960 issue of "Esquire Magazine." Tom Wolfe and other masters of the "New Journalism," which stressed a kind of irreverence towards the subject, soon followed.

In an American society that is still enthralled to Victorian-era concepts of class (Virginia Woolf denounced authors who wrote for money, a reflection of the aristocratic disdain for anyone who made rather than inherited money as vulgarians whose seed was tainted by contact with the till), Mailer's achievement was looked down upon. Rather than being hailed for revolutionizing American letters, Mailer was treated patronizingly by the Literary Establishment. Yet, the serious literary novel now is as nearly dead as all the Cassandras of the 1960s and '70s prognosticated, replaced by "non-fiction" memoirs, in which writers no longer hide behind fictive personas to tell stories, but take full-credit for living lives as full of foul incidents as any novel ever published. (That many of these "true tales" are fiction is beside the point.) Ironically, Norman Mailer, who longed to write the Great American novel, likely must bear the lion's share of responsibility for the death of the novel and the rise of the confessional "non-fiction" book, as he elevated "mere journalism" into an art form. Reporting became and art when Mailer married his beautiful writing with naked confession that made him a world-class celebrity in the 1960s and '70s, featured as a regular staple on television talk shows. Simply put, without Norman Mailer, there would not be American literature as we know it.

As concerns Hollywood, Mailer wrote a novel about Hollywood ("The Deer Park") and the first "serious" biography of Marilyn Monroe, which got him (and Monroe) the cover of the July 16 1973 edition of "Time Magazine." He made three improvisational films in the late 1960s: Wild 90 (1968), Beyond the Law (1968) and Maidstone (1970) and directed the 1987 adaptation of his own neo-noir novel Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987). He despised the 1958 movie made from The Naked and the Dead (1958), but had better luck with The Executioner's Song (1982) (1979), for which he wrote the screenplay for the 1982 telefilm. In 1983, Mailer was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Limited Series or a Special for his work, three years after his 1979 "novel" (Mailer had characterized his "The Armies of the Night" as "The novel as history, history as a novel") had won him his second Pulitzer Prize, for Fiction. ("Armies" had conquered him his first, for General Non-Fictionm in 1969.)

Norman Mailer died of acute renal failure at New York City's Sinai Hospital on November 10, 2007. He was 84 years old.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: frankfob2@yahoo.com and Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (6)

Norris Mailer (11 November 1980 - 10 November 2007) (his death) (2 children)
Carol Stevens (1980 - 1980) (divorced) (1 child)
Beverly Bentley (28 December 1963 - 21 March 1980) (divorced) (2 children)
Lady Jean Campbell (4 May 1962 - 16 December 1963) (divorced) (1 child)
Adele Morales (19 April 1954 - 1962) (divorced) (2 children)
Beatrice Silverman (7 January 1944 - 1952) (1 child)

Trivia (18)

Won two Pulitzer Prizes, for his non-fiction book "The Armies of the Night" (1969) and his novel "The Executioner's Song" (1980).
Born to Isaace Barnett Mailer and his wife Fanny Schneider, he grew up in Brooklyn, New York.
Biography/bibliography in: "Contemporary Authors". New Revision Series, Vol. 130, pp. 273-282. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2005.
Member of the 'Official Competition' jury at the 40th Cannes International Film Festival in 1987.
Coined the term "factoid", defined as a wholly spurious "fact" invented to create or prolong public exposure or to manipulate public opinion, in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe. Mailer himself described a factoid as "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper".
Studied aeronautical engineering at Harvard University, graduating in 1943.
Being one New Journalism's leading authors, he also wrote noted biographies about Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso and Lee Harvey Oswald.
Lived in New York City and Provincetown, MA with his sixth wife Norris.
Stated that he would never win a Nobel Prize because he once had stabbed his then wife Adele Morales with a penknife at a party (1960).
Ran in the Democratic Party primary to Mayor of New York City, but finally wasn't chosen candidate (1969).
His breakthrough novel "The Naked and The Dead" (1948) is based on his personal experiences during World War II and is considered one of the "100 best novels in English language" by the Modern Library.
Earned an Engineering Science degree in 1943 from Harvard University.
Nearly 11 years after the death of Marilyn Monroe, Mailer appeared on the cover of "Time Magazine" with the cinema legend. The July 17 1973 edition of "Time Magazine" featured a composite of photos of Mailer and Monroe. Monroe's picture was a full-color portrait taken by Bert Stern, from the last photographic sitting before her death, and dominated the cover. Her image dwarfs a smaller black & white photo of Mailer. The cover-story heralds the publication of "Marilyn," the book documenting her life in pictures, featuring a 90,000 word biography by Mailer. Mailer reportedly was displeased that "Time" chose to play up Monroe and diminish him, visually, on the cover. The publication of the coffee table book was a major event of that publishing season. The book retailed for $19.95, which is approximately $100 in 2008 money, when factored for inflation.
Was one of several celebrity witnesses to testify at the trial of the "Chicago Eight" featuring defendants, Abbie Hoffman, David Dellinger, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Bobby Seale, Rennie Davis, John Froines and Lee Weiner (1969-1970).
A huge fan of author Neil Gaiman.
Mentioned in the song "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions.
He is nominated for a 2013 New Jersey Hall of Fame in the General Category.

Personal Quotes (13)

Movie making is like sex. You start doing it, and then you get interested in getting better at it.
Making a film is a cross between a circus, a military campaign, a nightmare, and orgy and a high.
Great writers are not easy to read, and shouldn't be.
"I sometimes think that if porny films had come along when I was a young man, it would have dispensed with a lot of friction in my personal life." (in a conversation with his son, John Buffalo Mailer in Playboy's Dec. 2004 issue).
You don't know a woman until you've met her in court.
Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor.
You know, a criminal will never forgive you for preventing them from committing the crime that is really in their heart.
[on his stabbing of his second-wife Adele Morales with a 3-in. pocket-knife] What have I held on to for a long, long time and never written about, and indeed...may never write about? And it seems to me that stabbing my wife, Adele, is probably what I will never write about.
I've always felt my relationship to the United States is analogous to a marriage. I love this country. I hate it. I get angry by it. I feel close to it. I'm charmed by it. I'm repelled by it.
Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.
Every writer has something to be ashamed of.
[responding to a request for a literary contribution] Dear Pearl Kazin: I'm still too young and too arrogant to care to write the kind of high-grade horseshit that you print in 'Harper's Bazaar'.
[on Ryan O'Neal] I didn't get that mad when he called me a jerk, because there was a certain truth to it.

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