The Selected Letters of Norman Mailer

Edited by J. Michael Lennon. Random, $40 (896p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6623-0
Mailer’s ambition to be the greatest writer of his generation is made clear in his stylish, sophisticated letters. The novelist wrote at least 45,000 over the course of his long life, and this fascinating and lively volume reprints many hundreds (716, to be precise). The book begins in 1940, when Mailer was a Harvard undergraduate, and ends with just weeks before his death in 2007; his letters span from the atom bomb to the Huffington Post, in other words. A list of Mailer’s correspondents reads like a guide to 20th-century history and literature: Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Fidel Castro, Hunter S. Thompson, Graham Greene, Philip Roth, Thomas Pynchon, Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, and dozens of others. Mailer’s extensive correspondence with Jack Abbott reveals that Mailer remained friendly with him, even years after Abbott returned to prison for manslaughter. Mailer’s legendary combative side is also on display, as when he tells Gordon Lish, “what your work catches is everything I detest about modern life.” Lennon proves an ideal guide, expertly assembling a tidal wave of letters into a tidy, chronological selection. In the end, Mailer’s letters stand as the best autobiography available for such a complicated and extraordinary life. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/24/2014
Release date: 12/02/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 896 pages - 978-0-8129-8610-5
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-3754-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-5226-3753-0
Compact Disc - 978-1-5226-3755-4
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