Pieces and Pontifications (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
More than any other living American novelist, Norman Mailer has taken to heart the belief that an artist must play the part of a hero. It is a very particular sort of hero, however, and certainly not the quiet sort. Rather, this hero is a mythmaker, one who dramatizes a culture or an epoch and, in so doing, dramatizes himself. Or is it the reverse? Mailer’s obsession with America and with himself, in any event, are twin features of the same ambition, and this is true even insofar as he tends to define his own mythic identity in opposition to that of his time and place. In this dual project of creating his own persona and also his age’s mythology, Mailer has numerous artistic predecessors, and above all in America: after all, when Walt Whitman heard America singing, he was simultaneously singing of himself. Mailer, though more polemical than celebratory, is in the same mode, and has been for thirty years.
Indeed, despite all the talk of the various stages of Mailer’s career, that heroic ambition which fused the prophet and the self-promoter has been remarkably consistent since the 1950’s. When in his short piece “An Advertisement Advertised” he remarks that Advertisements for Myself (1959) had formed the essence of his subsequent style, the statement has greater resonance than perhaps intended. For from that decade onward, an...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Library Journal. CVII, June 1, 1982, p. 1098.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. July 11, 1982, p. 1.
National Review. XXXIV, June 11, 1982, p. 706.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVII, June 6, 1982, p. 3.
Time. CXIX, June 28, 1982, p. 73.
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