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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

BIRTH | Jan. 31–Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer (1923-2007)
This day was born in 1923 in Long Branch, N.J., Norman Kingsley Mailer. (Long Branch is the small resort town on the Jersey Shore where I was married in 1971.)

He grew up in Brooklyn, went to Harvard, got drafted during World War II and served in the Philippines. He came home and when he was 25, in 1948, he had his first novel published, The Naked and the Dead.

His most famous book may be The Executioner's Song (1979) which along with Armies of the Night was awarded a Pulitzer. He was a prominent pioneer in the "New Journalism", combining factual reporting with the format and techniques of fiction–along with Tom Wolfe and Truman Capote. In 1955, Mailer and four others founded The Village Voice.

Mailer wrote daily from 9 to 5 till his death at 84. He said:
Over the years, I've found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material.
But he never wrote the great American novel, although he tried. The New Yorker thinks he should have written about his childhood in Brooklyn. But Mailer said:
It's very bad to write a novel by act of will. I can do a book of nonfiction work that way– just sign the contract and do the book because, provided the topic has some meaning for me, I know I can do it. But a novel is different. A novel is more like falling in love. You don't say, "I'm going to fall in love next Tuesday, I'm going to begin my novel." The novel has to come to you. It has to feel just like love. 
He died on November 10, 2007.