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The Armies of the Night Hardcover – 1968

3.8 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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About the Author

Born in Long Branch, NJ, in 1923, and raised in Brooklyn, Norman Mailer was one of the most influential writers of the second half of the 20th century and a leading public intellectual for nearly sixty years. He is the author of more than thirty books. The Castle in the Forest, his last novel, was his eleventh New York Times bestseller. His first novel, The Naked and the Dead, has never gone out of print. His 1968 nonfiction narrative, The Armies of the Night, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He won a second Pulitzer for The Executioner’s Song and is the only person to have won Pulitzers in both fiction and nonfiction. Five of his books were nominated for National Book Awards, and he won a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation in 2005. Mr. Mailer died in 2007 in New York City. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld And Nicolson; 1st edition (1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297176277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297176275
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,381,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Those of you who are already familiar with the work of Norman Mailer don't need much of an introduction to the man who could perhaps be the most transcendant egoist of the century. For those of you who haven't read Mailer, know this: he writes unlike anyone of his peers, he can turn a phrase as well as Fitzgerald, he is a profound and unusual thinker, and has a great sense of humor.
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).
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Format: Paperback
Forty years ago, Norman Mailer and I attended a major demonstration against the Vietnam War at the Pentagon. Our situations were very different. Mailer was then forty-four, an established author and celebrity, and a founder of the "Village Voice." He attended the demonstration in the company of the poet Robert Lowell (a conscientious objector jailed during World War II) and Dwight McDonald, a leftist contributor to the "New Yorker" and the "New York Review of Books." Mailer was the subject of a BBC documentary and was accompanied to the demonstration by a film crew. He was arrested early in the day for crossing a police line, spent a night in jail, and was released the following day after extensive efforts by his lawyers.

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.
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Format: Paperback
I'm not going to try to answer my own question. I will say that this is an interesting look at the 67 march from Mailer's perspective. The section on the development of the march itself and the organizers was very informative, as was the section entitled "Why are we in Vietnam?" (a clear reference to Mailer's previous novel, which was criticized for not answering the question clearly enough.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Almost fifty years after its publication, Armies of the Night needs no summary. For that you can easily consult Web sources and get a take on its juxtaposition to similar literature of the time period. Nor need I comment much on the author's penchant for referring to himself in the third person. I merely thought it was about time I read some Mailer, and because this tome was recommended to me by friends, I selected Armies. It so clearly limns the times in which I lived as a youth who, except for a certain dumb luck, was spared the agony of being called to serve in the Vietnam War.

Instead, I offer, as usual, what I believe is perhaps the book in a nugget, what the novel is all about—a passage from the chapter, “Why Are We in Vietnam?”:

“Mailer had been going on for years about the diseases of America, its oncoming totalitarianism, its oppressiveness, its smog—he had written so much about the disease he had grown bored with his own voice, weary of his own petulance; the war in Vietnam offered therefore the grim pleasure of confirming his ideas. The disease he had written about existed now in open air: so he pushed further in his thoughts—the paradox of this obscene unjust war is that it provided him new energy—even as it provided new energy to the American soldiers who were fighting it.

“He came at last to the saddest conclusion of them all for it went beyond the war in Vietnam. He had come to decide that the center of America might be insane. The country had been living with a controlled, even fiercely controlled, schizophrenia which had been deepening with the years. Perhaps the point had now been passed.
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