Author Signing with J. Michael Lennon - The Selected Letters of Norman Mailer
J. Michael Lennon will discuss and sign copies of Selected Letters of Norman Mailer, as well as his biography of Norman Mailer, Normal Mailer: A Double Life, at The Hickory Stick Bookshop on Sunday, April 26th at 2:00 pm.
He will discuss Norman Mailer’s work with his daughter Danielle Mailer who is an accomplished visual artist known for her murals and metal sculptures who lives in Litchfield County.
About the book…
Edited by Mailer’s authorized biographer, J. Michael Lennon, Selected Letters of Norman Mailer collects the finest examples of Mailer’s letters written from 1940 when he was a sophomore at Harvard, to the summer of 2007, a few months before his death at 84. Over the course of those sixty-years, Norman Mailer wrote more than 45,000 pieces of correspondence (approximately 20 million words). Many of his letters were deeply personal and Mailer kept a copy of almost every letter he wrote.
J. Michael Lennon has selected the best of Mailer’s letters to be published—most for the first time—in one remarkable volume that seems to span several lifetimes. Together they form a stunning autobiographical portrait of one of the most original, provocative, and outspoken public intellectuals of the twentieth century. Organized by decade, Selected Letters of Norman Mailer features the most fascinating of Mailer’s missives from 1940 to 2007 including letters to his family, friends, fans and fellow writers. The letters include correspondence to such notable personalities as Arthur Miller, Lillian Hellman, Lillian Ross, Dwight Macdonald, Gore Vidal, William Styron, James Jones, James Baldwin, T.S. Eliot, Truman Capote, Henry Miller, William F. Buckley, Allen Ginsberg, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Lennon, Marlon Brando, and even Monica Lewinsky. The 716 letters in this edition provide a vivid depiction of the stages of Mailer’s career as a writer, his complicated personal relations, and innumerable meditations, musings and asides on the touchstones of his life: ambition, identity and a raging thirst for experience.
Selected Letters of Norman Mailer first presents Mailer as a precocious Harvard undergraduate, writing home to his parents for the first time and worrying that his acceptances by literary magazines were “all happening too easy.”
Soon after we see Mailer, the soldier, confronting the violence of war in the Pacific, which would become the subject of his masterly debut novel, The Naked and the Dead: “[I’m] amazed how casually it fits into . . . daily life, how very unhorrible it all is.”
Mailer the international celebrity pledges to William Styron, “I’m going to write every day, and like Lot’s Wife I’m consigning myself to a pillar of salt if I dare to look back,” while the 1980s Mailer agonizes over the fallout from his ill-fated friendship with Jack Henry Abbott, the murderer who became his literary protégé. “The continuation of our relationship was depressing for both of us,” he confesses to Joyce Carol Oates.
At last, he finds domestic—and erotic—bliss in the arms of his sixth wife, Norris Church “We bounce into each other like sunlight”.
Whether he is reflecting on the Kennedy assassination, assessing the merits of authors from Fitzgerald to Proust, or threatening to pummel William Styron, the brilliant and pugnacious Norman Mailer comes alive again in these letters. The myriad faces of this artist and activist, lover and fighter, public figure and private man, are laid bare in this collection as never before.
“As massive as the life they document . . . the autobiography [Mailer] never wrote . . . a kind of map, from the hills and rice paddies of the Philippines through every victory and defeat for the rest of the century and beyond.”—Esquire
“The shards and winks at Mailer’s own past that are scattered throughout the letters . . . are so tantalizing. They glitter throughout like unrefined jewels that Mailer took to the grave.”—The New Yorker
“Umpteen pleasures to pluck out and roll between your teeth, like seeds from a pomegranate.”—The New York Times
“Indispensable . . . a subtle document of an unsubtle man’s wit and erudition, even (or especially) when it’s wielded as a weapon.”—New York
J. Michael Lennon is Norman Mailer's archivist and authorized biographer. He is the Emeritus Vice President for Academic Affairs and Emeritus Professor of English at Wilkes University, in Pennsylvania. In addition to being chair of the editorial board of The Mailer Review, J. Michael Lennon has written or edited several books about and with Mailer, including Norman Mailer: A Double Life, Norman Mailer: Works and Days, and On God: An Uncommon Conversation. Lennon helped found and has served as president of both The Norman Mailer Society and The James Jones Literary Society and serves on the boards of both organizations. He is currently president of The Norman Mailer Society. He is also the Chair of the Editorial Board of The Mailer Review and serves on the Executive Board of the Norman Mailer Center.
His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and New York, among others. He lives in Westport, Massachusetts.
This event is free and open to the public. If you are unable to attend this event, you may reserve a signed copy of Selected Letters of Norman Mailer by calling The Hickory Stick Bookshop at (860) 868 0525.