Norman Mailer

by Richard Brookhiser

Norman Mailer was a journalist who was both readable and worth reading. Advertisements for Myself, a collection of early pieces, was an impertinent performance, more BS than brio. But his book on the 1968 conventions was worth reading for many years afterwards. (He was the hipster Teddy White, Hunter Thompson was the druggie Teddy White. The hipster was better.) Many of his apercues were keen. He wrote of pro-Democratic businessmen, whom he called petty mafia, that they wanted government contracts to hold the line while they got off that touchdown pass. He said that WASPs looked as if they had tight jaws from biting through so much resistance, which he thought was largely inner (he specifically mentioned all the piano lessons they dutifully took). He saw the boyishness of Reagan, and the complciations of Nixon (in those days leftists merely hated him).

He could write well almost without trying–he tossed off the hotels of Miami looking like ice cube trays stacked upright–and in the end that worked against him. A lot was too easy, and a lot more simply became impossible as time went on.


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