Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Much of the meaning of “The Man Who Studied Yoga” is conveyed through the confidential, yet elusive and reserved, tone of the anonymous narrator. The story begins: “I would introduce myself if it were not useless. The name I had last night will not be the same as the name I have tonight. For the moment, then, let me say I am thinking of Sam Slovoda.” Is the narrator meant to be taken as one of the author’s personas? Is this why the narrator’s name changes? Is there a new name for every new story the author writes? This is a distinct possibility, because “The Man Who Studied Yoga” is included in Advertisements for Myself (1959), which is Mailer’s self-professed scrutiny of his personality as a writer. In this book he discusses his writing successes and failures, and his effort to write a great novel just as Sam dreams of doing.

The narrator has an existential identity (that is, one without references to his past or future) that makes him superior to Sam, and seems to make himself up as he goes along. The narrator’s turns of phrase and his light, deft irony suggest the very mastery of character and circumstance that eludes Sam. However, the narrator is sympathetic with and wryly amused by Sam, as though the narrator has gone through similar struggles to define himself and to stand apart from a conformist society. The narrator is something like a psychotherapist, except that he studiously avoids psychological jargon—indeed, he...

(The entire section is 418 words.)