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Norman Mailer: A Double Life Hardcover – October 15, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 960 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439150192
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439150191
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A larger-than-life personality, Norman Mailer was a force to be reckoned with in his personal life—he knew many, many people—and as a voice in the American literary canon between WWII and the beginning of the twenty-first century. Any writer of a serious biography of Mailer who hopes to contain the excesses of the man within the covers of a book must know that since Mailer in his own lifetime grated on people’s taste and nerves, he could easily grate on the reader, even when presented within the pages of a biography. Lennon, authorized by Mailer before his death to write the definitive life treatment, performs a great task, letting Mailer’s obnoxiousness have free rein in balance with the biographer’s easygoing narrative style, which coaxes the reader into accepting and even enjoying all sides of Mailer—gregarious, notoriously thin-skinned, grandly egotistical, and monstrously talented. Understanding Mailer is only half the object of this welcome biography; its other intention is for readers to be enticed into reading or rereading Mailer’s works. --Brad Hooper

From Bookforum

Lennon's title is apt but not quite sufficient. Mailer led innumerable double lives: novelist and journalist; father and flaneur; rich man and debtor; gentleman and brawler; radical and reactionary. —Christian Lorentzen

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Customer Reviews

J. Michael Lennon knew Norman Mailer for more than three decades.
Jeff Minick
The book is also wonderfully indexed, allowing researchers to easily locate passages of interest.
William E. Lowenburg
We love Norman, and this book is the ultimate document of his amazing, uncompromising life.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Nicole DePolo on March 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lennon's biography of Norman Mailer doubles as an invaluable scholarly resource and a highly entertaining narrative. Upon its release, it became a cornerstone of Mailer scholarship and the definitive biography of one of the most formidable literary lions of the twentieth century.

However, this book isn't just for academics. Lennon turns the development of Mailer's notoriously controversial character into an intriguing tale. This is the story of Mailer's life and literary evolution---and of his context at the center of the maelstrom that was Cold War America and its cultural revolution of the fifties and sixties.

Mailer's breakout novel, The Naked and the Dead, was a reflection of his own experiences on the battlefield during WWII, and it launched him into literary stardom at the age of twenty-five. From that vantage point, through his journalism as well as his fiction, he reported the crucial sociopolitical events of the second half of the twentieth century. Mailer documented the major happenings of his era, including the counterculture of Greenwich Village, JFK's campaign and election, the moonshot, and the Rumble in the Jungle.

His account of the 1967 March on the Pentagon, published as The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History, won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction and the National Book Award for Arts and Fiction in 1969. By then, Mailer had mastered the style of the New Journalism---reportage of factual events through the devices of fiction. He achieved this by simultaneously playing the role of narrator and protagonist of his own works. In so doing, he cast himself as a major figure within the heady times his writing embodied, and this conceit wasn't far from the truth.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Alexander M. Hicks on October 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Lennon’s Norman Mailer: A Double Life offers more than portraits of two Mailers, be they of “the “Man” and the “artist” or the radical Mailer and the conservative Mailer, the rake and the dutiful father. At first glance alone, it offers both an enthrallingly rich anecdotal life history of the most publically visible American author of the second half of the twentieth century and the most conscientiously "objective,” yet detailed, accounting of Mailer's writings to date.

This isn’t to say that the work’s catalogue of riches is exhausted by such double-duty gifts as the above. The work contains a wonderfully nuanced portrait of the celebrity author of The Naked and the Dead as (Brooklyn-born, Harvard-educated, War-tested) “artist as young man.” It portrays a subsequent Mailer as quintessential 50s white hipster novelist-intellectual, as master pioneer of the 60 and '70s New (write-it-up-like-fiction) Journalism, as feminist bête-noire, as the devoted (if not always faithful) family man and extraordinarily disciplined and productive author of Mailer’s last three decades of life. The critical account of Mailer transcribes 60 year of critical reception in all of the wild variability that marked the reception of each book save The Naked and the Dead (1947), The Armies of the Night (1965), The Executioner’s Song (1979) and some of the political and sport reporting of the 1960s and 1970s-- all entwined with six decades of lively exchanges with among Mailer, literary correspondents – Hemingway, Jones, Styron, Burroughs, Baldwin-- and reviewers.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William E. Lowenburg on October 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Norman Mailer: A Double Life is one of the most important biographies of our time. It is the definitive chronicle of Mailer's personal and literary life. Biographer J. Michael Lennon shows how those two lives were really one almost-unimaginably BIG life. It's rare that a book this detailed and comprehensive is also so readable. Whether reading sequentially or exploring random passages, every page provides fascinating anecdotes illustrating Mailer's genius, quirks, struggles, misadventures, and accomplishments. A major understanding I gained from the 947 page book (yes, I read the whole thing) is that despite his turbulent personal life, Norman Mailer was an incredibly hard-working, dedicated writer. Lennon provides example after example of how Mailer's complicated day-to-day life informed and enriched his writing. Lennon has done a masterful job at integrating passages from Mailer's letters along with statements gleaned through interviews and documents to create an engaging narrative. The book is also wonderfully indexed, allowing researchers to easily locate passages of interest. All sources have been meticulously documented. Mailer was fortunate to have Lennon as a close friend and archivist for more than thirty-five years. Despite their personal relationship, Lennon doesn't hold back from describing Mailer's darkest times, such as the stabbing of his second wife, Adele, serial adultery, and the Jack Henry Abbot affair. Lennon collected and organized over 45,000 of Mailer's letters to shape the book. He also drew from 700 interviews of Mailer conducted by others, and hundreds of interviews Lennon conducted himself. As a former history teacher and current librarian and biographer, I can't imagine the life of any public figure being more well-documented or better-presented in an accessible reading format. J. Michael Lennon has produced the definitive biography of Norman Mailer - for us and for history.
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