Mind of an Outlaw: Selected Essays
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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Norman Mailer was one of the towering figures of twentieth-century American letters and an acknowledged master of the essay. Mind of an Outlaw, the first posthumous publication from this outsize literary icon, collects Mailer’s most important and representative work in the form that many rank as his most electrifying.
As America’s foremost public intellectual, Norman Mailer was a ubiquitous presence in our national life—on the airwaves and in print—for more than sixty years. With his supple mind and pugnacious persona, he engaged society more than any other writer of his generation. The trademark Mailer swagger is much in evidence in these pages as he holds forth on culture, ideology, politics, sex, gender, and celebrity, among other topics. Here is Mailer on boxing, Mailer on Hemingway, Mailer on Marilyn Monroe, and, of course, Mailer on Mailer—the one subject that served as the beating heart of all of his nonfiction.
From his early essay “A Credo for the Living,” published in 1948, when the author was twenty-five, to his final writings in the year before his death, Mailer wrestled with the big themes of his times. He was one of the most astute cultural commentators of the postwar era, a swashbuckling intellectual provocateur who never pulled a punch and was rarely anything less than interesting. Mind of an Outlaw spans the full arc of Mailer’s evolution as a writer, including such essential pieces as his acclaimed 1957 meditation on hipsters, “The White Negro”; multiple selections from his seminal collection Advertisements for Myself; and a never-before-published essay on Sigmund Freud.
Incendiary, erudite, and unrepentantly outrageous, Norman Mailer was a dominating force on the battlefield of ideas. Featuring an incisive Introduction by Jonathan Lethem, Mind of an Outlaw forms a fascinating portrait of Mailer’s intellectual development across the span of his career as well as the preoccupations of a nation in the last half of the American century.
Praise for Mind of an Outlaw
“[Mailer’s] best and brightest.”—Esquire
“The fifty essays collected in this retrospective volume span sixty-four years and show [Norman] Mailer (1923–2007) at his brawny, pugnacious, and egotistical best. . . . This provocative collection brims with insights and reflections that show why Mailer is regarded as a great literary mind of his generation.”—Publishers Weekly
“The selections open a window onto the capacious mind and process of one of the most volatile intellects of the twentieth century.”—Library Journal
“Vintage Mailer: brilliant, infuriating, witty and never, ever boring.”—Tampa Bay Times
“As good an introduction to Mailer’s habits of mind as there’s ever been.”—Kirkus Reviews
“There’s no arguing about Mailer the essayist—he was outstanding. . . . These insightful essays educate, argue and persuade on everything from politics and literature to film, philosophy and the human condition.”—Shelf Awareness
From the Hardcover edition.
conclusion, no whirling of sexual destinies (in this case, the audience and the actors) into the same funnel of becoming, no flying out of the senses in pursuit of a new vision, no, just the full charge into a blank wall, a masturbator’s spasm—came for the wrong reason and on the wrong thought—and one is thrown back, shattered, too ubiquitously electrified, and full of criticism for the immediate past. Now the recollected flaws of the film eat at the pleasure, even as the failed orgasm of a
is obvious. Ellis wants to break through steel walls. He will set out to shock the unshockable. And Spy writer Todd Stiles is right—we are face-to-face once more with the old curmudgeon “novelist and critic Leo Tolstoi” (who not so long ago used to be known as Tolstoy). We have to ask the question once more: What is art? The clue presented by Bret Easton Ellis is his odd remark on “the need to be terrified.” Let me take us through my reading of the book, even though the manuscript I read was
(such as feeling superior while also doubting this sense of superiority). In other words, individuals might appear to exhibit contradictory thinking or actions when in actuality they are reflecting different views that they hold at different times because they are deeply conflicted—a tension that reveals itself as existential angst. Mailer was keenly aware of the rich texture of contradictions that make up human beliefs but believed that these contradictions offer considerable flexibility in
all.” I found a cool one, a New York reporter, who smiled in rueful respect. “It’s the biggest demonstration I’ve seen since Wendell Willkie’s in 1940,” he said, and added, “God, if Stevenson takes it, I can wire my wife and move the family on to Hawaii.” “I don’t get it.” “Well, every story I wrote said it was locked up for Kennedy.” Still it went on, twenty minutes, thirty minutes, the chairman could hardly be heard, the demonstrators refused to leave. The lights were turned out, giving a
Hemingway would have had to write a better book than War and Peace. From The Deer Park: “There was that law of life, so cruel and so just, which demanded that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same.” I think that line is true. I think it is biologically true. And I think its application is more ferocious in America than anywhere I know. Because we set ourselves out around the knoll and get ready to play King of the Hill. Soon one of us is brave enough to take the center and insist