Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Writing for Style: Norman Mailer

adapted from from Your Guide to Grammar & Composition.

Sorry for the long gap in posting, but I’ve been working on my Moore Partners website. Today starts a series of Writers on Writing. To keep the posts reasonably short, I’ve included website links where you can read more.

One of the best known and most controversial American novelists of the second half of the 20th century, Norman Mailer is mostly remembered for his private life of excess and activism. Mailer was married six times, and had several mistresses. He had eight biological children by his various wives, and adopted one further child. For many years, he had a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights as well as a house on the Cape Cod oceanfront in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Like many novelists of his generation, Mailer struggled with alcohol and drug abuse throughout his life. Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, and Tom Wolfe, Mailer is considered an innovator of creative nonfiction, a genre sometimes called New Journalism, but which covers the essay to the nonfiction novel.

Armies of the Night, Mailer's narrative about the march on the Pentagon, won the National Book Award in 1968 and the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. Twelve years later, The Executioner's Song, his "true-life novel" about convict Gary Gilmore, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction.

That is the book of Mailer’s I remember most vividly. It knocked me out in the same way as In Cold Blood did. And the TV movie starring Tommy Lee Jones as Gary Gilmour was superb.

"I will certainly be remembered as a journalist," Mailer said to interviewer Gregory Kirschling (Entertainment Weekly, 2007). "In fact, I think the irony may be that I've had much more influence as a journalist than as a novelist."

In the more than 300 interviews given by Mailer over a long career, he freely expressed his views on a broad range of topics:

The Spooky Element in Writing
One Simple Rule
Doing What's Necessary
The Fiction of Nonfiction
The Value of Writing Classes
The Influence of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner

All are under Norman Mailer on the Writing Tips page of Moore Partners.

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