Mailer Publishes The Naked and the Dead (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: Norman Mailer’s publication of The Naked and the Dead launched the career of a dominant personality in American literature in the second half of the twentieth century.
Summary of Event
In 1948, Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead was published. The book was an immediate commercial success; it topped The New York Times’ best-seller list for eleven weeks and sold 197,185 copies its first year.
Within a year after he had been graduated from Harvard University with a degree in engineering sciences, Mailer had enlisted in the U.S. Army, and during World War II he served in the Philippines. Mailer used his personal military experience and individual artistic vision to transcend the genre of the war novel. Critics agreed that his 721-page book was the finest novel to come out of World War II. Mailer suddenly was considered the best literary mind of the war generation.
Yet although critics praised The Naked and the Dead, many underestimated the depth and artistry of Mailer’s book and focused instead on the effective verisimilitude of the novel. Most critics at the time did not recognize the allegorical implications of the characters and the metaphoric nature of the plot.
Critics eventually discovered, however, that The Naked and the Dead was far more than a realistic novel of men at war. Mailer had written a rich parable of...
(The entire section is 1964 words.)
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