Norman Mailer, 1923-2007

He changed American journalism and letters, and co-founded The Village Voice

In 1979, Mailer again won the Pulitzer Prize for The Executioner's Song, another non-fiction novel about Gary Gilmore, a convicted murderer executed by the state of Utah in 1976. For the first time, Mailer affected a detached 3rd-person voice that Joan Didion called "ambitious to the point of vertigo."

Throughout his career, along with his obsession with sexuality, Mailer was preoccupied with the deadening, life-sapping effects of technology. This disdain extended even to the use of a key-and-lever typewriter, which he refused to use, and birth-control. (He fathered nine children with his six wives.)

But his great obsession, perhaps, was manhood, and the problem of being an authentic man in a culture and an era that saps his strength. He wrote about boxers, started his own drunken brawls, and reveled in defiant womanizing.

And yet, within his defiant bravado, his monomaniacal egocentrism, and raging counter-cultural prose, there is the despair and longing of a disillusioned idealist. "Defeat has left my nature divided, my sense of timing is eccentric, and I contain within myself the bitter exhaustions of an old man, and the cocky arguments of a bright boy," he wrote in 1961. "So I am everything but my proper age of thirty-six, and anger has brought me to the edge of the brutal."

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