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Barbary Shore Paperback – September 30, 1997

2.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Barbary Shore
“A work of remarkable power, of amazing penetration, both into people and the determining forces of American life.”The Atlantic Monthly
“Vibrant with life, abundant with real people . . . [Mailer has] a scintillating skill in observation, a mature sense of meaning.”The Philadelphia Inquirer
“This book is nothing short of amazing.”Newsweek
Barbary Shore [is] about the kind of country—and what you might call the psychic territory—that American war heroes were returning to.”The Guardian
Praise for Norman Mailer
“[Norman Mailer] loomed over American letters longer and larger than any other writer of his generation.”The New York Times
“A writer of the greatest and most reckless talent.”The New Yorker
“Mailer is indispensable, an American treasure.”The Washington Post
“A devastatingly alive and original creative mind.”Life
“Mailer is fierce, courageous, and reckless and nearly everything he writes has sections of headlong brilliance.”The New York Review of Books
“The largest mind and imagination [in modern] American literature . . . Unlike just about every American writer since Henry James, Mailer has managed to grow and become richer in wisdom with each new book.”Chicago Tribune
“Mailer is a master of his craft. His language carries you through the story like a leaf on a stream.”The Cincinnati Post

From the Inside Flap

Mike Lovett rents a room in a Brooklyn boarding house with the intention of writing a novel. Wounded during World War II, Lovett is an amnesiac, and much of his past is a secret to himself. But Lovett's housemates have secrets of their own. As these mysterious figures vie for Lovett's allegiance, Barbary Shore plays havoc with our certainties, combining Kafkaesque unease with Orwellian paranoia and delivering its effects with a power that Mailer has made all his own.  

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (September 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375700390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700392
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,176,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Trina L. Drotar on August 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
When we begin comparing different books by an author, we can run into problems. Each book, I believe, should be judged on its own. While Barbary Shore was certainly not my all time favorite book in the entire world, I could not put it down, either. Mailer's use of language, and his word choices, added to the overall feel of the novel. The feeling during the height of the McCarthy Era was one of caution and fear. I believe that he captured these things through his language choices as well as through the characters and their actions. Is this one of Mailer's best books? Probably not. I heard him speak several months ago in California. He was funny, charming, and he said that he believed Ancient Evenings was one of his favorites. At times, during Barbary Shore, it is a bit difficult to figure out what is going on, but that's what compelled me to continue with the book. I had to know. Mailer brought these characters to life, particularly with his wonderful descriptions. It is a book I would read again, and it will occupy a space on one of my many bookshelves. It was not, however, a fast paced book. It took me a bit of time to read. In fact, I had finished several other books in the time it took me to finish this one, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. There were things he wrote in this book, too, that ring true even today, particularly at the beginning of chapter 24, when he discusses the big, rich companies, the machine that makes capitalism go and grow, and the workers. "The man grew smaller and the machine grew larger,..." he writes. Isn't this true today? It's worth a first, careful read.
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Format: Paperback
When asked what he thought of Norman Mailer, writer Charles Bukowski often responded, "I don't think of Norman Mailer." Those who have read Mailer's second novel, Barbary Shore, should understand Buke's sentiment. Set chiefly in a Brooklyn boarding house, Barbary Shore more or less details the relationships between an amnesiac young WWII veteran and his kooky housemates. Radical politics serve as a backdrop to the book, but Mailer's dull prose and the passing of time deflate any topical relevance.
The novel is primarily composed of lengthy and boring conversations between the narrator and his housemates, as well as Mailer's first-person doddering about his neighborhood. It seems that Mailer intends for his dialogue to advance the plot and to develop the characters. Unlike Steinbeck, Mailer fails at this task. His dialogue is too long, too ponderous, and intolerably fake. The characters are as believable as those of Ian Fleming, yet far less intriguing or sexy.
In sum, this book is lousy. There is nothing else to say about it. A contextual analysis or meaningful critique is not warranted.
In the future, other works by Mailer will certainly be remembered by critics and English departments worldwide. For example, The Naked & The Dead will be recalled as a solid war novel. As for Barbary Shore? At best a sophomore slump. I want my money back--and from the author himself.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This novel, Norman mailer's second and the followup to his wonderful debut, The Naked and the Dead, is actually two novels, one pretty good and one pretty bad. The pretty good part is the first half of the book, roughly, where Mailer introduces a set of quirky characters worthy of Carson McCullers and sets off a series of potential conflicts that promise dramatic fireworks. That doesn't happen, or at least not in a very satisfying way, as the second half of the book descends to stultifying speechifying and utterly wooden dialogue.

I can mark the transition from good to bad in this novel as the point at which the character of Lannie appears. A kind of child woman/proto hippie chick she is an utterly unconvincing character whose dialogue consists of almost total nonsense that doesn't sound like anyone's real speech. Her insertion in the novel has an enervating effect on the other characters as well and we end up with some kind of low-rent show trial where Mailer's supposed hero, McLeod, is badgered by Hollingsworth, a sort of junior grade G man who apparently represents McCarthyism. Well, this was 1951.

This portion of the book is stuffed with long-winded disquisitions of a warmed-over Marxist variety that seem very quaint today…and utterly boring. Mailer showed a real flair for constructing interesting, realistic characters and describing dramatic events in Naked and the Dead, and also in the first half of Barbary Shore. But then his worst instincts came to dominate and he fell victim to that bane of ideological writers everywhere, the urge to make speeches. This almost never works in a creative medium like a novel because it is a drama stopper and a character killer.

Barbary Shore got Mailer some really bad reviews and it was a failure with the public as well. No surprise there. Unless you're nostalgic for 50s-style Marxist romanticism or a hopeless Mailer addict, skip Barbary Shore.
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Format: Paperback
A few things grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and made themselves evident to me when I read this novel. Firstly, Norman Mailer is a much smarter man than I, secondly, Norman Mailer can write very well when he wants to, and thirdly, he can do a lot better than this.
Set in a boarding house with a serious of muddled characters and little to drive the narrative outside of dialogue, the book fails to reach the heights that were probably imagined for it in it's conception. It is my second experience with Mailer, the first being The Fight, which I rate very highly. This novel, despite it's best efforts, have failed to seal my opinion of Mailer. Maybe I should read The Naked and The Dead and be done with it. In short, I think there are better books out there to be read.
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