When you’ve made a 60-year career out of writing provocative books on war, politics, culture and sex, what else is there to write about? If you’re Norman Mailer—married six times, with a reputation as a bruiser, known for writing counter-cultural essays—one huge subject remains: religion. Although the two-time Pulitzer winner covered God in his last novel, The Castle in the Forest, his latest book, which Random House announced today, will offer Mailer’s concept of the nature of God. And surprise: it isn’t all love and rainbows.

On God: An Uncommon Conversation
, a 240-page tome pubbing October 16, "shows a master still wrestling with the largest questions of what it means to be human," said Random House Publishing Group president and publisher Gina Centrello. "This book is like Norman himself... brilliant, original, irreverent, and full of insight and compassion." A series of dialogues between Mailer and his friend and literary executor Michael Lennon, On God should provoke and challenge. Among the hot topics: Mailer considers the possibilities of "intelligent design" despite avowing that sensual pleasures were bestowed on humans by God; he finds fault with the Ten Commandments, because adultery, he says, may be a lesser evil than others suffered in a bad marriage; and he holds that technology was the Devil’s most brilliant creation.

In the end, Mailer establishes his own system of belief, one that rejects both organized religion and atheism. "I think," says Mailer, "that piety is oppressive. It takes all the air out of thought." He presents instead an artistic God who often succeeds but can also fail in the face of contrary powers in the universe. In true Mailer form, the author trusts that people’s individual behavior—always a complex mix of good and evil—will be rewarded or punished with a reincarnation that fits the sum of their lives.