Mind of an Outlaw: Selected Essays

Norman Mailer, edited by Phillip Sipiora. Random, $40 (640p) ISBN 978-0-81299-347-9
The 50 essays collected in this retrospective volume span 64 years and show Mailer (1923–2007) at his brawny, pugnacious, and egotistical best. Although early selections seem dated—among them, “The Homosexual Villain,” his confession of his ignorance of, and hence past uneasiness with, homosexuality—he hits his stride with the 1957 classic “The White Negro,” which equates the mindset of white hipster rebels with the sensibility of American blacks, who have “been living on the margin between totalitarianism and democracy for two centuries.” Here, Mailer also draws parallels between outlaw minds and criminal psychopaths, a thread that winds through several essays, notably “Until Dead,” prompted by the execution of Gary Gilmore (subject of Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Executioner’s Song), and “Discovering Jack H. Abbott,” which launched his campaign to get convicted murderer Abbott released from prison. Mailer’s many interests led him to topics including his contemporaries’ novels, Marilyn Monroe’s films, black power, and politics. He’s sharpest when writing about himself, as in the title essay, an engrossing account of getting his novel The Deer Park published. Featuring an introduction by Jonathan Lethem, this provocative collection brims with insights and reflections that show why Mailer is regarded as a great literary mind of his generation. Agent: Jeffrey Posternak, Wylie Agency. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/2013
Release date: 10/15/2013
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