Norman Mailer
Novelist, essayist, journalist, poet, playwright
Norman Mailer
Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director. Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S. Thompson, John McPhee, and Tom Wolfe, Mailer is considered an innovator of creative nonfiction, a genre sometimes called New Journalism, which superimposes the style and devices of literary fiction onto fact-based journalism.
Biography
Norman Mailer's personal information overview.
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News
News abour Norman Mailer from around the web
The Use of the "F-Word" in Book Titles
Huffington Post - 8 days
While the use of the F-word in books, movies and other media is now as common as oxygen, I recently read that it is now making its way more than ever into the actual titles of books, and is becoming a prominent feature in their cover designs, certainly destined for even greater proliferation. To those of us who grew up unaccustomed to that infamous word as a descriptive expletive, it does come with a wink and a gulp. When I was growing up during the depression in Brooklyn, the verbal or written use of the F-word was practically non-existent. Of course it was out there, but I rarely heard it spoken even where boys of that time congregated in the schoolyard, the playing field, and the traditional indoor and outdoor hangouts. I can't speak for women, but I would bet the barn that the F-word and all it stood for was locked in a vault of deep mental suppression. There were so called "cusswords" bandied about but they rarely attained the singularly black reputation of the ...
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Huffington Post article
Review: It’s Norman Mailer vs. Feminists in ‘The Town Hall Affair’
NYTimes - 11 days
Maura Tierney, Kate Valk, Scott Shepherd and the Wooster Group recreate a firestorm of a panel discussion in the timely and time-bending piece.
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NYTimes article
‘The Town Hall Affair’ Recreates a Feminist Firestorm
NYTimes - 15 days
This piece by the Wooster Group was inspired by a 1971 debate that pitted Norman Mailer against some of the most outspoken feminists of the day.
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NYTimes article
CultureZohn: Pierre Chareau, Lost and Found
Huffington Post - 4 months
Chareau in his Paris apartment at 54 Rue Nollet, c. 1927. On the wall behind him are works by Picasso and Lipchitz. photo by Thérèse Bonney, The Museum of Modern Art, New York The Jewish Museum retrospective of the work of Pierre Chareau, a 20th -century designer who has been somewhat eclipsed by his design contemporaries (Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier, Eileen Gray, Marcel Breuer) comes at an interesting time. Pierre Chareau's business card The work of these modernists (and their Italian colleagues) has formed the basis of a serious market in mid-century design. Prices at auction have gone sky high, and dealers like Larry Gagosian have taken them on. But pieces by Chareau are very scarce (a search on First Dibs turned up a few sconces and chairs) and most of his architectural and interior work is not extant. He does not have the same name recognition. The Jewish Museum aims to change all that in a retrospective opening this week. And as in their Roberto Burle ...
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Huffington Post article
Woodstock Film Festival Wraps 17th Edition With Industry Awards Bash
Huffington Post - 4 months
Kingston NY...The Woodstock Film Festival's Oct. 15 Maverick Awards Ceremony celebrated 17 years of film presentations, panels, concerts and events with a Hollywood-style party attended by industry movers and shakers including Academy Award® winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu who presented the Festival's Trailblazer award to David Linde, executive producer of Iñárritu's Oscar-winning film, Biutiful, and CEO of Participant Media. Photo Credit: Ben Caswell Alejandro González Iñárritu, Meira Blaustein and David Linde Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Oren Moverman received this year's Fiercely Independent Award from presenter Ben Foster, who starred in Moverman's 2009 film The Messenger. The prolific writer, director and producer went on to direct Rampart, Time out of Mind and the upcoming film starring Richard Gere, The Dinner. Documentary filmmaker and Woodstock local Leon Gast received the Lifetime Achievement Award from filmmaker/director Barbara Kopple. Gast' ...
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Huffington Post article
2016 Nobel Prize In Literature Awarded To Bob Dylan
Huffington Post - 4 months
STOCKHOLM, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Bob Dylan, regarded as the voice of a generation for his influential songs from the 1960s onwards, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature in a surprise decision that made him the only singer-songwriter to win the award. The 75-year-old Dylan - who won the prize for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition” - now finds himself in the company of Winston Churchill, Thomas Mann and Rudyard Kipling as Nobel laureates. The announcement was met with gasps in Stockholm’s stately Royal Academy hall, followed - unusually - by some laughter. Dylan’s songs, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Like a Rolling Stone” captured a spirit of rebellion, dissent and independence. More than 50 years on, Dylan is still writing songs and is often on tour, performing his dense poetic lyrics, sung in a sometimes rasping voice that has been ridiculed by detractors. ...
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Huffington Post article
How Norman Mailer and graffiti artist Droyce's trickster take on the Hollywood sign made me look
LATimes - 10 months
From slivers of gray rooflines in Los Angeles' industrial zones, to tucked-away corners under freeway stacks, graffiti has a way of occupying and transforming unused urban spaces. In his 1974 book, "The Faith of Graffiti," Norman Mailer wrote of the phenomenon: "... those wavelets of ego forever...
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LATimes article
Sunday Roundup
Huffington Post - about 1 year
This week, the two men who finished first and second in New Hampshire offered the tale of two Republican parties. John Kasich's speech that night offered the starkest contrast to Donald Trump's triumphant ugliness, scapegoating and division. "We're going to solve the problems in America not by being extreme," he said, but by "reminding everybody that we are Americans dedicated to shining up America and fixing our problems." He declared that we are all meant to be "a part of the healing of this world." Kasich's speech was an alternate path forward for the GOP -- Trump's focused on our darkest fears, Kasich's on our better angels. As the campaign heads south, let's remember that presidential elections are about more than choosing the leader of the country. They are also about choosing what kind of country and people we want to be. In the lead-up to the 2000 election, I interviewed historians and novelists about what we were looking for in a president. What they said then is just as rel ...
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Huffington Post article
Salman Rushdie Receives The Mailer Prize For Lifetime Achievement
Huffington Post - about 1 year
NEW YORK (AP) — Salman Rushdie is this year's recipient of the Mailer Prize for lifetime achievement. The author of "Midnight's Children," ''The Satanic Verses" and other novels was presented his award by Laurie Anderson at a ceremony Thursday night at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, the New York City borough where Norman Mailer was raised and lived off and on until his death in 2007. "It's kind of great to be standing here in Norman Mailer's shadow," Rushdie said. Rushdie, like Mailer, is a former president of the American chapter of PEN, the literary and human rights organization. He said Mailer had inspired him to help found the PEN World Voices Festival, an annual gathering of writers from around the world. The 68-year-old Rushdie first encountered Mailer in the mid-1980s, when Mailer organized a famously contentious PEN congress. Rushdie said he remembered "how badly everybody behaved" and "how wonderful it was to see writers in the raw." "To my great disappointment, ...
Article Link:
Huffington Post article
Salman Rushdie Receives The Mailer Prize For Lifetime Achievement
Huffington Post - about 1 year
NEW YORK (AP) — Salman Rushdie is this year's recipient of the Mailer Prize for lifetime achievement. The author of "Midnight's Children," ''The Satanic Verses" and other novels was presented his award by Laurie Anderson at a ceremony Thursday night at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, the New York City borough where Norman Mailer was raised and lived off and on until his death in 2007. "It's kind of great to be standing here in Norman Mailer's shadow," Rushdie said. Rushdie, like Mailer, is a former president of the American chapter of PEN, the literary and human rights organization. He said Mailer had inspired him to help found the PEN World Voices Festival, an annual gathering of writers from around the world. The 68-year-old Rushdie first encountered Mailer in the mid-1980s, when Mailer organized a famously contentious PEN congress. Rushdie said he remembered "how badly everybody behaved" and "how wonderful it was to see writers in the raw." "To my great disappointment, ...
Article Link:
Huffington Post article
Morrissey Wins Britain's Bad Sex Award
NPR - about 1 year
Former Smiths frontman and lyricist Morrissey has won the annual award for the poorest quality writing about sex in his novel, List of the Lost. Past winners include Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe.
Article Link:
NPR article
Adele Mailer, Artist Who Married Norman Mailer, Dies at 90
NYTimes - about 1 year
Mrs. Mailer embraced the downtown arts scene and a bohemian lifestyle. In 1960, her husband stabbed her in the heart.
Article Link:
NYTimes article
Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Norman Mailer
    THIRTIES
  • 2007
    Mailer enjoyed drawing and drew prolifically, particularly toward the end of his life. While his work is not widely known, his drawings, which were inspired by Picasso's style, were exhibited at the Berta Walker Gallery in Provincetown in 2007, and are now displayed on the online arts community POBA - Where the Arts Live.
    More Details Hide Details Throughout his writing Mailer never presents a very clear perspective on race. His works range from a profound understanding of the African American condition in American to extremely stereotypical depictions of race. For the majority of Mailer’s career he does not delve directly into race, but chose to pursue the matter only as a side note to the larger currents of the 1960s and 1970s. Mailer does however spend some time working through the issue in “The White Negro”, Of a Fire on the Moon, and in his work The Fight about the heavyweight title bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. In "The White Negro" Mailer argues that African Americans are psychopaths because they live in a society that hates them, (meaning white society) which in turn causes them to hate themselves. Mailer goes on to argue that because of this innate psychopathy, African Americans are left to explore the least virtuous areas of civilized life. Mailer’s analysis culminates in his expression that if African Americans were to achieve equality it would have violent, and chaotic affects to white society.
    His final novel, The Castle in the Forest, which focused on Hitler's childhood, reached number five on the Times best-seller list after publication in January 2007.
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  • TWENTIES
  • 1997
    While in the short term, Morales made a physical recovery, in 1997 she published a memoir of their marriage entitled The Last Party, which recounted her husband stabbing her at a party and the aftermath.
    More Details Hide Details This incident has been a focal point for feminist critics of Mailer, who point to themes of sexual violence in his work.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1982
    In a chance meeting in an Upper East Side New York restaurant in 1982, Gloria Leonard first met Mailer.
    More Details Hide Details He struck up a conversation with Leonard after recognizing her. The meeting was rumored to have led to a brief affair between the two. Later, Leonard was approached by a group of movie distributors from the Midwest to finance what was described as "the world's first million-dollar pornographic movie." She invited Mailer to lunch and made her pitch for his services as a writer. In an interview Leonard said that the author "sat straight up in his chair and said, 'I always knew I'd one day make a porny.'" Leonard then asked what his fee would be and Mailer responded with "Two-hundred fifty thousand". Leonard then asked if he'd be interested in adapting his novel-biography of Marilyn Monroe, but Mailer replied that he wanted to do something original. The project later ended due to scheduling conflicts between the two. According to his obituary in The Independent, his "relentless machismo seemed out of place in a man who was actually quite small – though perhaps that was where the aggression originated."
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1980
    His sixth and last wife, whom he married in 1980, was Norris Church Mailer (née Barbara Davis, 1949–2010), an art teacher.
    More Details Hide Details They had one son together, John Buffalo Mailer, a writer and actor. Mailer raised and informally adopted Matthew Norris, Church's son by her first husband, Larry Norris. Living in Brooklyn, New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts with Mailer, Church worked as a model, wrote and painted. In 2005, Mailer co-wrote a book with his youngest child, John Buffalo Mailer, titled The Big Empty. Mailer appeared in an episode of Gilmore Girls titled "Norman Mailer, I'm Pregnant!" with his son Stephen Mailer. Over the course of his life, Mailer was connected with several women other than his wives, including Carole Mallory, who wrote a "tell all" biography, Loving Mailer, after his death.
    His fifth wife was Carol Stevens, a jazz singer whom he married on November 7, 1980, and divorced in Haiti on November 8, 1980, thereby legitimating their daughter Maggie, born in 1971.
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    Two later works co-written by Mailer presented imagined words and thoughts in Monroe's voice: the 1980 book Of Women and Their Elegance and the 1986 play Strawhead, which was produced off Broadway starring his daughter Kate Mailer.
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    From 1980 until his death in 2007, he contributed to Democratic Party candidacies for political office.
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    In 1980, Mailer spearheaded convicted killer Jack Abbott's successful bid for parole.
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  • 1977
    In 1977, Abbott had read about Mailer's work on The Executioner's Song and wrote to Mailer, offering to enlighten the author about Abbott's time behind bars and the conditions he was experiencing.
    More Details Hide Details Mailer, impressed, helped to publish In the Belly of the Beast, a book on life in the prison system consisting of Abbott's letters to Mailer. Once paroled, Abbott committed a murder in New York City six weeks after his release, stabbing to death 22-year-old Richard Adan. Consequently, Mailer was subject to criticism for his role. In a 1992 interview with the Buffalo News, he conceded that his involvement was "another episode in my life in which I can find nothing to cheer about or nothing to take pride in." The 1986 meeting of PEN in New York City featured key speeches by then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Mailer. The appearance of a government official was derided by many, and as Shultz ended his speech, the crowd seethed, with some calling to "read the protest" that had been circulated to criticize Shultz's appearance. Mailer, who was next to speak, responded by shouting to the crowd: "Up yours!"
  • 1973
    Mailer's 1973 biography of Monroe (usually designated Marilyn: A Biography) was particularly controversial.
    More Details Hide Details The book's final chapter states that Monroe was murdered by agents of the FBI and CIA who resented her supposed affair with Robert F. Kennedy. In his own 1987 autobiography Timebends, the playwright Arthur Miller, a former husband to Monroe, wrote scathingly of Mailer: "Mailer was himself in drag, acting out his own Hollywood fantasies of fame and sex unlimited and power." The book was enormously successful, selling more copies than any of Mailer's works except The Naked and the Dead. It remained in print for decades, but was out of print in the United States. It was the inspiration for the Emmy-nominated TV movie, Marilyn: The Untold Story, which aired in 1980.
  • 1971
    At the December 15, 1971, taping of The Dick Cavett Show, with Janet Flanner and Gore Vidal, Mailer, annoyed with a less-than-stellar review by Vidal of Prisoner of Sex, apparently headbutted Vidal and traded insults with him backstage.
    More Details Hide Details As the show began taping, a visibly belligerent Mailer, who admitted he had been drinking, goaded Vidal and Cavett into trading insults with him on air and continually referred to his "greater intellect". He openly taunted and mocked Vidal (who responded in kind), finally earning the ire of Flanner, who announced during the discussion that she was "becoming very, very bored", telling Mailer "You act as if you're the only people here." As Cavett made jokes comparing Mailer's intellect to his ego, Mailer stated "Why don't you look at your question sheet and ask your question?", to which Cavett responded "Why don't you fold it five ways and put it where the moon don't shine?" A long laugh ensued, after which Mailer asked Cavett if he had come up with that line and Cavett replied "I have to tell you a quote from Tolstoy?". The headbutting and later on-air altercation was described by Mailer himself in his essay "Of a Small and Modest Malignancy, Wicked and Bristling with Dots."
  • 1969
    In 1969, at the suggestion of Gloria Steinem, his friend the political essayist Noel Parmentel and others, he ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic Party primary for Mayor of New York City, allied with columnist Jimmy Breslin (who ran for City Council President), proposing the creation of a 51st state through New York City secession.
    More Details Hide Details Although Mailer took stands on a wide range of issues, from opposing "compulsory fluoridation of the water supply" to advocating the release of Black Panther Party leader Huey Newton, decentralization was the overriding issue of the campaign. Mailer "foresaw the city, its independence secured, splintering into townships and neighborhoods, with their own school systems, police departments, housing programs, and governing philosophies." Their slogan was "throw the rascals in". Mailer was endorsed by libertarian economist Murray Rothbard, who "believed that 'smashing the urban government apparatus and fragmenting it into a myriad of constituent fragments' offered the only answer to the ills plaguing American cities," and called Mailer's campaign “the most refreshing libertarian political campaign in decades.” He came in fourth in a field of five. Looking back on the campaign, journalist and historian Theodore White called it "one of the most serious campaigns run in the United States in the last five years.... His campaign was considered and thoughtful, the beginning of an attempt to apply ideas to a political situation."
  • OTHER
  • 1968
    In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
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  • 1967
    In October 1967, he was arrested for his involvement in an Anti-Vietnam War demonstration at the Pentagon sponsored by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam.
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  • 1963
    His fourth marriage, in 1963, was to Beverly Bentley, a former model turned actress. She is the mother of his producer son Michael Mailer and his actor son Stephen Mailer. They divorced in 1980.
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    In December 1963, Mailer and several of the other sponsors left it. (some of the original twenty-nine sponsors of the group included Truman Capote, Robert Taber, James Baldwin, Robert F. Williams, Waldo Frank, Carleton Beals, Simone de Beauvoir, Robert Colodny, Donald Harrington, and Jean-Paul Sartre)
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  • 1962
    His third wife, whom he married in 1962, and divorced in 1963, was the British heiress and journalist Lady Jeanne Campbell (1929–2007).
    More Details Hide Details She was the only daughter of Ian Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll, a Scottish aristocrat and clan chief with a notorious private life, and a granddaughter of the press baron Lord Beaverbrook. The couple had a daughter, Kate Mailer, who is an actress.
  • 1961
    In September 1961, Mailer was one of the original twenty-nine prominent American sponsors of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee organization that was the same organization that John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald also became a member of in 1963.
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  • 1960
    A number of Mailer's nonfiction works, such as The Armies of the Night and The Presidential Papers, are political. He covered the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1992, and 1996, although his account of the 1996 Democratic convention has never been published.
    More Details Hide Details In the early 1960s he was fixated on the figure of President John F. Kennedy, whom he regarded as an "existential hero." In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s and 1970s his work mingled autobiography, social commentary, history, fiction, and poetry in a formally original way that influenced the development of New Journalism. Mailer held the rare position that the Cold War was not a positive ideal for America. It allowed the State to become strong and invested in the daily lives of the people. He critiqued conservative politics as they, specifically Barry Goldwater, supported the Cold War which called for an increase in government spending and oversight. This, Mailer argued, stood in opposition with conservative principles like lower taxes, and smaller government. He believed that conservatives were pro-Cold War because that was politically relevant to them and would therefore help them win.
    In 1960, Mailer wrote "Superman Comes to the Supermarket" for Esquire magazine, an account of the emergence of John F. Kennedy during the Democratic party convention.
    More Details Hide Details The essay was an important breakthrough for the New Journalism of the 1960s, but when the magazine's editors changed the title to "Superman Comes to the Supermart," Mailer was enraged, and would not write for Esquire for years. (The magazine later apologized. Subsequent references are to the original title.) As a result of his anger at Esquire, Mailer sold his long article, On the Steps of the Pentagon, a personal account of the massive October 1967 anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C., to Harper's magazine. He later expanded the article to a book, The Armies of the Night (1968), awarded a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. His major New Journalism books also include Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968); Of a Fire on the Moon (1971); and The Prisoner of Sex (1971). Hallmarks of these works are a highly subjectivized style and a greater application of techniques from fiction-writing than common in journalism.
  • 1959
    Mailer republished it in 1959 in a collection of essays entitled Advertisements for Myself.
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  • 1955
    In 1955, he co-founded The Village Voice, for which he wrote a column from January to April 1956.
    More Details Hide Details Mailer's famous essay "The White Negro" (1957) "analyzes and partly defends the moral radicalism of the outsider and hipster." It is one of the most anthologized, and controversial, essays of the postwar period.
    His 1955 novel The Deer Park drew on his experiences working as a screenwriter in Hollywood in 1949–50.
    More Details Hide Details It was initially rejected by seven publishers due to its purportedly sexual content before being published by Putnam's. It was not a success; at one point Mailer took out a full-page advertisement that defiantly quoted his many bad reviews. Mailer wrote his fourth novel, An American Dream, as a serial in Esquire magazine over eight months (January to August 1964), publishing the first chapter two months after he wrote it. In March 1965, Dial Press published a revised version. His editor was E. L. Doctorow. The novel received mixed reviews, but was a best seller. Joan Didion praised it in a review in National Review (April 20, 1965) and John W. Aldridge did the same in Life (March 19, 1965), while Elizabeth Hardwick panned it in Partisan Review (spring 1965). In 1980, The Executioner's Song, Mailer's novel of the life and death of murderer Gary Gilmore, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
  • 1954
    Mailer married his second wife, Adele Morales, in 1954.
    More Details Hide Details They had two daughters, Danielle and Elizabeth. On one occasion Mailer stabbed her twice with a penknife, puncturing her pericardium and necessitating emergency surgery. His wife would not press charges, and he later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of assault, and was given a suspended sentence.
  • 1948
    In 1948, while continuing his studies at the University of Paris, Mailer published his first, The Naked and the Dead, based on his military service in World War II.
    More Details Hide Details A New York Times best seller for 62 weeks, it was hailed by many as one of the best American wartime novels and named as one of the "one hundred best novels in English language" by the Modern Library. This book that made his reputation is rarely read today. The same newspaper described the book as: a hard read today, a sprawling, cumbersome saga that reads like the fusion of literary ambition and severely limited artistic experience – as indeed it was. Its anachronistic use of "fug" and "fugging" in place of the real words now seems merely quaint, and the prose alternates between pedestrian and purple – little wonder that the young Mailer likened himself to Theodore Dreiser, arguably the worst prose stylist, none the less considered a major American novelist. Barbary Shore (1951) was "mauled" by the critics. It was a surreal parable of Cold War leftist politics set in a Brooklyn rooming-house.
  • 1944
    Mailer's first marriage was in 1944, to Beatrice Silverman, whom he divorced in 1952.
    More Details Hide Details They had one child, Susan.
  • 1943
    After graduating in 1943, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
    More Details Hide Details Hoping to gain a deferment from service, Mailer argued that he was writing an "important literary work" which pertained to the war. This deferral was denied, and Mailer was forced to enter the Army. After training at Fort Bragg, Mailer was stationed in the Philippines with the 112th Cavalry. During his time in the Philippines, Mailer worked as a cook and saw little combat. He participated in a patrol on the island of Leyte. When asked about his war experiences, Mailer stated that "the army gave me but one lesson over and over again: when it came to taking care of myself, I had little to offer next to the practical sense of an illiterate sharecropper." This lesson inspired Mailer to write his first novel, The Naked and the Dead. Mailer wrote 12 novels over a 59-year span.
  • 1941
    He published his first story at the age of 18, winning Story magazine's college contest in 1941.
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  • 1939
    Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Mailer graduated from Boys' High School and entered Harvard University in 1939, when he was 16 years old.
    More Details Hide Details As an undergraduate, he was a member of the Signet Society. At Harvard, he studied aeronautical engineering, and became interested in writing.
  • 1927
    Mailer's sister, Barbara, was born in 1927.
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  • 1923
    Born on January 31, 1923.
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Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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