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On God: An Uncommon Conversation Paperback – November 4, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for On God
“[Norman Mailer’s] theology is not theoretical to him. After eight decades, it is what he believes. He expects no adherents, and does not profess to be a prophet, but he has worked to forge his beliefs into a coherent catechism.”New York
“The glory of an original mind in full provocation.”USA Today
“At once illuminating and exciting . . . a chance to see Mailer’s intellect as well as his lively conversational style of speech.”American Jewish Life
“Remarkable . . . [Mailer’s] a believer—in his own fashion. . . . He has made [God] into a complex character.”The Globe and Mail
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

About the Author

Born in 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Norman Mailer was one of the most influential writers of the second half of the twentieth 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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812979400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812979404
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,514,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read "Miami and the Siege of Chicago" shortly after it was published. It was a fairly decent book. But I saw Mailer was a second-tier novelist who considered himself, vainly, to be absolutely first-tier. He admired Hemingway too much and modeled his behavior after that vastly more talented American novelist. Mailer wanted to be Hemingway. But Mailer never really evidenced Hemingway's bold grace or prolific talent and never really pulled off the clownish, public ruses, which ultimately now diminish him. As for existentialism, Mailer liked to quote Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky. I'm not sure how well he really understood Sartre or Kierkegaard or Gabriel Marcel or Heidegger. But Mailer brands himself as an existentialist because he seems to love the sound of the word, which he too often repeats, and wants you to believe he is "authentic" -- the real thing. Mailer comes off as a narcissist, which he is, of course, and lives at the center of his own cosmos: God is an author, God forbid. Having said all of this candidly, "On God" offers some fresh and profound theology: it turns out that Mailer is far superior, later in life, as a theologian than over a long career as a novelist. His approach to the big question as to "If God is good and all powerful, why is there so much evil?" is convincing and cogent and enlightened. Read the book for Mailer's answer to this one question alone. He offers some of the most insightful, however speculative, perspective on the authentic reality of the relationship between God and the Devil since the epic poetry of Milton in "Paradise Lost." He attacks the inauthenticity rampant among organized religion.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
During much of his long and illustrious career in American letters, Norman Mailer wrote extensively about his beliefs concerning God, the Devil and the war between good and evil, as well as man's role in this cosmological struggle. The foundation of Mailer's cosmology is based on the idea that God is not all-good and all-powerful, but is an existential God doing the best that He/She can do. His thoughts and beliefs relating to his religious system were often expressed implicitly in his novels and more explicitly in his non-fiction. Now, with the publication of this excellent book, On God, we have Mailer's thoughts on these topics systematized and expanded over the course of more than two hundred fascinating and stimulating pages. The book is in the form of an interview as indicated by the subtitle "An Uncommon Conversation." This interview took place at intervals over the course of three years - from June 2003 to June 2006. The interrogator, Michael Lennon, is very skillful at extracting Mailer's thoughts, getting further explications, always probing deeper, reminiscent, in a way to Melville's description of peeling the onion, layer by layer, to get to the deeper meanings one finds below. The reader is often as pleased with the manner in which ideas develop as in the actual ideas themselves. The book seems spontaneous and fresh even though Mailer had been thinking about the topics covered for the past fifty years.

On God will certainly prove to be invaluable to Mailer scholars or for that matter to anyone who loves to read his books since an intelligent comprehension of his works is not possible without an understanding of his metaphysics. This book should also be of interest to anyone who has an open mind with regard to religious questions.
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Format: Hardcover
I have always admired Mailer for his writing style, but not his opinions. It came as a major shock that a Progressive like Mailer would even acknowledge the existance of God, Good and Evil. Maybe there is hope for the Dark Side after all. It seems that Mamet also has finally seen the Light.

I think people of all Faiths would find this book a worthwhile read even though some of Mailer's opinions may be offensive. Give it a chance.

A good read from an newly-enlightened man as he approached mortality.
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Format: Hardcover
Norman Mailer has spent a good deal of his fifty plus year career as a writer wrestling with the issue of God and the nature of His being, speculations that have helped make his books rich texts for advancing limitless sets of dualisms about the condition of America and the growing complexity in the issue of good vs. evil. He has now brought us his new book, "On God:An Uncommon Conversation", a series of discussions with his literary archivist, professor J.Michael Lennon. It is a fascinating discussion, intriguing quite despite Mailer's confessed lack of theological training. The lack of training works to Mailer's advantage; his God is less an all seeing General Manager of the universe than he is an artist trying to fill a page with beautiful words , or a canvas with arresting figures in sublime colors and shades.

Mailer is that rare creature, an actual American religious existentialist, a philosophy that insists that we cannot have a meaningful faith unless we face the circumstances of our life straight on, without reservation, and take a creative action to deal with them, sans the comforting catechisms priests, rabbis or monks might offer us. The point is that we advance toward a solution, create a meaningful context for ourselves in an existence where greater assurances are impossible, and that we take full responsibility for the consequences of the acts we do; we commit acts of faith that God is with us, without guarantees, and that we make mistakes along the way.

Mailer is taken with the notion that we're created in his image, and speculates that he also gave us his temperament and fallibilities as well as his best graces, all without the supernatural abilities.
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