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The Time of Our Time (Modern Library Paperbacks) Paperback – October 26, 1999

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Compiling an anthology of one's own work can be a tricky business. Norman Mailer, of course, first committed this act of literary cannibalism back in 1959, when he assembled a brilliant collage of stories, journalism, essays, and poetry, Advertisements for Myself . Now, 50 years after the publication of his first novel, Gore Vidal's favorite sparring partner has put together another, more massive anthology, advertising not only himself but what we might call (paraphrasing Frost) his lover's quarrel with American life. "Over the course of years," Mailer writes in his foreword, "most of us compose in the privacy of our minds a social and cultural history of the years through which we have passed." True enough. But Mailer's history of the American Imperium has always been public--extremely public--and in The Time of Our Time he attempts to get it all into a single book.

Surely this sense of himself as the republic's recording angel accounts for the structure of Mailer's anthology: rather than arranging the excerpts by date of composition, he groups them by the historical era they describe. His 1963 polemic about the Bay of Pigs, for example, appears alongside his cloak-and-dagger reconstruction of the same event from Harlot's Ghost (1991). Fiction and fact lie cheek-by-jowl and eventually become impossible to tell apart. Here is the fulfillment of a project that Mailer began decades ago with such cunning hybrids as Armies of the Night. Yet this enormous volume shouldn't be read merely as a hand-tooled work of history. It is also the record of a phenomenal literary career, documenting Mailer's initial triumphs, his adrenaline-infused masterpieces of the late 1960s, hyperbolic stinkers like Marilyn and Ancient Evenings, and the astringent sorrow and awe of The Executioner's Song, which marked his return to form in 1979 after a long fallow period. Who but this loudmouthed, elegant, shrewd, and invariably excessive author would claim that his time--i.e., his accounting of it--is essentially our time? And who else could even begin to make such a claim stick? The list is a short one indeed. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

How to sum up 50 years of writing? Mailer's 31 books since 1948?some great, some infuriating or silly, but none of them safe?have held him a consistently high place among postwar American writers; in between his novels, his charismatic accounts of political conventions, prize fights, demonstrations, and moon landings effected a sea-change in magazine journalism, launching a thousand self-referential copycats. No subject ever seemed outside Mailer's swaggering intelligence as he evolved from young war-novelist to Existential essayist riffing above the cultural storms. Mailer doesn't need to stake his claim as a novelist or social critic: This sprawling reader does both, following Mailer's two careers by presenting novel excerpts set chronologically and thematically among his most memorable nonfiction, right up to his account of the 1996 campaign. In another half-century, will he be remembered as a great novelist or a gifted man of letters who divided his talent? Readers who don't balk at this collection's heft (1279 pages) may decide for themselves. This compilation is an ego indulgence, but even Mailer's indulgences are lucid and surprising. Recommended, but not essential.?Nathan Ward, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 1328 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; New edition edition (October 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375754911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375754913
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,796,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Norman Mailer has had a radical trajectory through the course of his career, and now, at age 75 with fifty years as a professional writer behind him, a summary collection is the fashion, and "The Time of Our Time" is the door stopper through which posterity should judge either his ascension, or decline in our literary Olympus. It's amazing, actually , how Mailer has controlled the course of criticisim of his work, as he did with "Advertisements for Myself" and later with the "Prisoner of Sex", both books through which his aesthetics were linked with a peculiarly Maileresque cosmology. One might despise Mailer and his philosophy, but a critic was still trapped discussing the work through the author's obsessions. And that is the mark of brilliance, Mailer could get is readers to talk about things he wanted to speak to, because his language is strangely persuasive, at his high point, even as it addresses the dark and obscene corners of the imagination, and the baser instincts of American power. "The Time of Our Time'again makes us consider his entire career through Mailer's filter, and understandably, it can be aggravating for someone expecting an easy in to the body of work.But it gives us the rewards, with generous selections form his best work, "Naked and the Dead", Armies of the Night", "Executioner's Song","An American Dream"--and like wise long excerpts from slighter efforts, like "Gospel According to the Son" and his recent Picasso biography.Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ted Burke on May 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Norman Mailer has had a radical trajectory through the course of his career, and now, at age 75 with fifty years as a professional writer behind him, a summary collection is the fashion, and "The Time of Our Time" is the door stopper through which posterity should judge either his ascension, or decline in our literary Olympus.
It's amazing, actually, how Mailer has controlled the course of criticism of his work, as he did with "Advertisements for Myself" and later with the "Prisoner of Sex", both books through which his aesthetics were linked with a peculiarly Maileresque cosmology. One might despise Mailer and his philosophy, but a critic was still trapped discussing the work through the author's obsessions. And that is the mark of brilliance, Mailer could get is readers to talk about things he wanted to speak to, because his language is strangely persuasive, at his high point, even as it addresses the dark and obscene corners of the imagination, and the baser instincts of American power.
"The Time of Our Time" again makes us consider his entire career through Mailer's filter, and understandably, it can be aggravating for someone expecting an easy in to the body of work. But it gives us the rewards, with generous selections form his best work, "Naked and the Dead", Armies of the Night", "Executioner's Song"," An American Dream"--and like wise long excerpts from slighter efforts, like "Gospel According to the Son" and his recent Picasso biography.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M. Derby VINE VOICE on May 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
"The Time of Our Time" gathers together some of Norman Mailer's best writings but, unlike some "greatest hits" collections from writers, it is not an introduction. It is 1,300 pages-way too long to be an introduction. What Mailer offered in this work, a celebration of both his 75th birthday and his 50 years in publication, is an chronology of American life from World War Two to Clinton winning a second term in 1996--with a look at ancient Egypt and Jesus hanging on as an afterthought. Mailer offers slices of his novels, interviews with famous figures and his own, reports of political conventions, thoughts on boxing matches, a look at Watergate, arguments with feminists, reports on the JFK assassination, a glimpse at Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe and other writings. It's a haunting snapshot of the chaos, passion and turmoil of the last half of the 20th century in America. A parade of the great and near great march through: Eugene McCarthy, Mailyn Quayle, Gary Gilmore, Salman Rushdie, Abbie Hoffman, Nelson Rockefeller, Madonna, Gore Vidal, Neil Armstrong, a bullfighter named "El Loco", Floyd Patterson. There are strange moments and one wonders where Mailer was in the 80s. It's telling that Ronald Reagan pops up in the political drama of 1968 but not as president while George H. W. Bush pops up as the main figure in two essays. Mailer fans will wonder why some parts of his books are included but not others-did we need to revisit the detour in "Harlot's Ghost" to Uruguay again? Why didn't Mailer include the start of "Harlot's Ghost" as Harry Hubbard has a harrowing night in Maine? Why are none of the screenplays here? Why so little of "Naked and the Dead"? Any fan will have problems with a given "greatest hits" collection be it U2's best songs or Tennyson's best poems or a collection of the greatest Yankees games ever. This work is no introduction to Mailer but it is a comprehensive look into the minds and craft of one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.
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