cover image The Lives of Norman Mailer: A Biography

The Lives of Norman Mailer: A Biography

Carl Rollyson. Paragon House Publishers, $26.95 (425pp) ISBN 978-1-55778-193-2

The lives of Mailer, like the facets of his character, are many, because he keeps inventing himself. That is the underlying premise of Rollyson's attempt to grapple with this large literary talent cum bully-boy cum Jewish leprechaun, a rebel with many causes, who from his stunningly successful early novel The Naked and the Dead to his current Harlot's Ghost has bobbed and jabbed in combat with his critics and his times. Mailer's an aggressor with charm, a star performer with a penchant for shooting himself in the foot. Novelist, essayist, journalist, movie director (of his film Tough Guys Don't Dance a critic said, ``Tough guys shouldn't direct''), amateur pugilist, reputed misogynist six times married, Pulitizer Prize winner--Mailer has been all these; and in this amply researched and sharp-eyed study there's nourishing fare for both his admirers and his detractors. Rollyson, biographer of Marilyn Monroe, Lillian Hellman and Martha Gellhorn, aptly does a good deal of jabbing and weaving himself in trying to catch a man who seems to have made flight from the gentility of his background an obsession, who has kept inventing himself perhaps because he has never quite found himself. But Rollyson may go too far in calling his subject a genius. Photos. 25,000 first printing; $35,000 ad/promo. (Oct.)