Sunday, November 11, 2007

Norman Mailer has died, and with him goes the idea of the great American novel. Though other writers have gotten acclaim since World War II (among them: Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Ralph Ellison), Mailer just seemed like a colossus.

One thing: he was prolific, and he continued to write. Perhaps that meant there was too much out there, so many of his recent works just seemed superfluous. But he wrote some books which were essential documents. Certainly that was true of "Armies of the Night" and "Miami and the Siege of Chicago".

"The Executioner's Song" was Kenny's favorite book. He read it again and again. He read it at least 20 times! He liked "The Naked and the Dead", but he hated "Why Are We in Vietnam?" Since "The Executioner's Song" was his favorite book, i once asked him if Norman Mailer was his favorite writer, and Kenny said, no, because he didn't like all of Mailer's books.

But Norman Mailer just seemed to be larger than life, an outsized personality, and at his best, he did have the talent to back up his most extravagant claims.

And now he is dead. Maybe the idea of the Great American Novel has died as well.


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