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The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History Paperback – January 1, 1995
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In this, the book that won him his first Pulitzer Prize, Mailer gives us what he likes to think of as two books. First comes "History As A Novel," in which Mailer describes his experience (in the third person) participating in the largest anti-Vietnam War rally to have occured by 1967 when this book was published. In traditional fashion, a somewhat besotted Mailer makes rousing and unsettling remarks at a theater based event, lends his support to draft-card burners (actually, the group of protesters were to turn in their cards, rather than burn them), and walk in the historically significant march on the Pentagon. At the Pentagon, Mailer manages to get himself arrested (a goal he had previously set for himself), and spends the weekend in jail. He describes all of this with such wit and insight that Mailer himself becomes as much the subject matter as the march itself.
In the second book, "The Novel As History," Mailer gives us a historical perspective on the march and describes its genesis, reason for existance, movers and shakers, and then describes the march as it might have been seen by an unbiased reporter (although Mailer admits that no unbiased reports of this event could ever be given).Read more ›
I was twenty-one, a penniless student in my third year at Antioch College. I was a comparative newcomer to mass demonstrations. Although I did not consider myself a pacifist, I was opposed on principle to military service, and I was opposed specifically to the Vietnam War. If drafted, I expected to go to prison. I did not go to the Pentagon to be disruptive, and I did not go to join the hippie "levitation/exorcism" exercise, which I considered juvenile. I attended with a Quaker who had been a conscientious objector in World War II, and a fellow classmate, who would become a conscientious objector. We felt it was important to make our opposition to Selective Service and the war visible. We had heard that some pacifists intended to commit civil disobedience (blocking doors or entering off-limits areas), and we went to support their action. I had neither the courage nor the self-discipline to commit civil disobediance myself at that point, and either arrest or injury would have been catastrophic for me.Read more ›
The analysis of the changing liberalism in the US is also quite good. Overall, there is no plot. And Mailer's attempts to avoid even the most minor suffering are laughable especially when held against the suffering of the Vietnamese and the US soldiers enlisted to fight a meandering war.
Reading the book in 2005, however, gives the book great significance. It's clear that liberals write books and conservatives work in politics. And unfortunately, neither side listens to the other very closely.
Mailer's style in this book is very fast and pulled me through the first section quickly. Things slow down in the second section, but not because the subject matter is slower. Mailer clearly wanted to switch styles (and even talks about how he prides himself on changing styles with every work).
Anyway. Enjoy it for the connections to 2005 America, but remember that Mailer is...Mailer. And he loves to talk about himself and how important he is to everyone around him.
On March 17, 2007 various anti-Iraq War forces will converge on the Pentagon to oppose that war and to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the original protest of that symbol of American imperialism during the Vietnam War (and `levitation' of the building according to some sources then, such as the late Abbie Hoffman). Whether such a celebration is called for under the circumstances of the Iraq anti-war movement's continuing failure to stop this war is a separate question to be left to another day. Today it is nevertheless fitting that Norman Mailer's Armies of the Night, about those several days forty years ago, should be reviewed with this upcoming event in mind.
In this novel as history (or history as novel depending what part you are reading at a given time) Norman Mailer tries, successfully for the most part, to use this literary trope as a means for closely investigating the action that he is witnessing (and taking part in). As I have mentioned elsewhere in other reviews of Mailer's books he will be eventually known in the literary pantheon for his journalism and musings on his life and his times. But not merely as a journalist in the conventional sense, those are basically a dime a dozen and eminently forgettable, but as an exemplar of the then `new' journalism. That concept got its greatest expansion in the later work of Doctor Hunter Thompson (`gonzo' journalism) but Mailer, and to a lesser extent, Tom Wolfe gave it legitimacy.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Norman Mailer’s bifurcated chronicle of the 1967 March on the Pentagon, The Armies of the Night (1968) is an interesting combination of self-revelation and history. Read morePublished 10 months ago by M. Buzalka
As a boomer, ya gotta love it. While we may not have all checked in, we were all there in spirit. Thanks, as Bob Hope would say, for the memories, Norman!Published 14 months ago by Carey Rowland
Book came in great shape- well pleased with this awesome classic!Published 16 months ago by Jay confalone
Classic Mailer. But i find that, after lo so many years, his style doesn't hold up that well. It is taking me a long time to read this. Read morePublished 22 months ago by J. Wagner
little scholarly for me-not easy read-could not read all because of that-hope that will not put me in the low intelligence category?Published on March 12, 2014 by ANN JONES