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All stories relating to Norman Mailer

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Book links roundup: E.L. James’ $1-million book deal, the greatest losers in American literature, and more

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Book links round-up: Andrew Morton’s royal feat, Meowmorphosis, and more


Books of the Year 2010: Fiction and Poetry

There’s no formula for choosing the books of the year. Some break ground, some tackle familiar themes with new energy. Some represent the best work from established authors, some introduce us to important new voices. And some are simply in-house favourites we feel deserve a little more attention. Here are the Fiction and Poetry books that made the most impact in 2010.

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Daily book biz round-up, March 15

What you missed over the weekend:

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Bookmarks: reviews of Shortcovers, Mailer’s reviewers, and a new book for uppity editors

Sundry links from around the Web:

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James Wolcott’s 1991 Oedipal woes over Mailer

Vanity Fair has unearthed a 1991 television special made by American Psycho director Mary Harron and starring VF culture columnist James Wolcott, in which Wolcott gives his take on both Norman Mailer and his then-current book, Harlot’s Ghost.

Here’s Wolcott on the long-buried video:

“Accompanied by guest star Malachy McCourt (as the bartender), I thrash out my Oedipal woes and critical misgivings over Harlot’s Ghost with some of the most poignant facial expressions ever to emerge from the John Candy school of acting. Satirical as the video is, it’s also a tribute to the sway Mailer had over our imaginations, and the electrical crackle of his personality up to the very end.”

Watch it here.

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Norman Mailer and The New Yorker

James Wolcott has a post up today about the relative lack of Mailer content in The New Yorker over the past six decades or so – Louis Menand’s pithy obituary notwithstanding.

Wolcott pulls a quote out of Mailer’s book Armies of the Night to help explain the scarcity:

Although [critic Dwight MacDonald] would not admit it, he was in secret carrying on a passionate love affair with The New Yorker – Disraeli on his knees before Victoria. But the Novelist [Mailer] did not share Macdonald’s infatuation at all – The New Yorker had not printed a line in review of The Presidential Papers, An American Dream, or Cannibals and Christians, and that, Mailer had long ago decided, was an indication of some of the worst things to be said about the magazine. He had once had a correspondence with Lillian Ross who asked him why he did not do a piece for The New Yorker. “Because they would not let me use the word ‘shit,’” he had written back. Miss Ross suggested that all liberty was his if only he understood where liberty resided. True liberty, Mailer had responded, consisted of his right to say shit in The New Yorker.

Wolcott notes that, these days, “all manner of shit is said in The New Yorker, and nobody minds, not even the senior nuns.”

(By the way, you can say “shit” in Q&Q.)

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Norman Mailer remembered

The death of Norman Mailer elicited tons of reaction over the weekend. Here are just some of the obituaries, personal reminiscences, and other items – not all of it positive, obviously.

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Bookmarks – Quick links

Some book-related links:

  • Norma Gabler, the Texas textbook nitpicker who spent most of her life seeking out factual errors and “left-wing bias” in schoolbooks, is dead at 84. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Kerouac’s On the Road – uncut and republished. (The Independent)
  • Russia goes big on book advertising. (Moscow Times)
  • Norman Mailer: Mr. Television. (Slate)
  • The book every soldier in Iraq should read. (Harper’s)

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Reviewing Mailer

Norman MailerThe 83-year-old Norman Mailer has a new book coming out next week – his first in over a decade – and The New York Observer’s Philip Weiss has just weighed in with an early review.

Weiss says at the outset of his piece that he sat down to read The Castle in the Forest (Random House) “wondering how many rounds [Mailer] can still go with a pencil,” but then he spends the rest of the review basically apologizing for ever having doubted the man.

This work has vigor, excitement, humor and vastness of spirit. There are a few signs of strain, but they hardly count against the power of the language and the ideas. Here’s Norman Mailer in Act V, and he has all the wit and magic of old Prospero.

If Weiss is right, it’s certainly good news for Mailer’s fans. But he has so much trouble synopsizing the nearly 500-page tome – even though his review runs a lengthy 2,000 words or so – that you may come away worried that Mailer has succumbed, like Pynchon and DeLillo, to the everything-plus-the-kitchen- sink approach to novel writing. As has been established elsewhere, The Castle in the Forest is a fictionalized biography of Adolph Hitler, but Weiss makes it sound as if Mailer is barely interested in Hitler:

There’s little history here at all, and more about czarist Russia in the late 1800s than about Hitler as a fascist leader. [And] any thought you have that the book will take up Jews and the Jewish question – again, no. Mr. Mailer finishes with Hitler in 1905, at age 16 or so, in Linz, Austria, at about the time when he’s figured out how to masturbate.

Weiss basically gives up trying to tell us what The Castle in the Forest actually is, and instead gives over to transcribing a long series of interesting (but rambling) phone discussions with Mailer about history, fathers and sons, incest, the Devil, demonology, his Jewishness, and the kabbalah. Let’s hope the book itself is a little more focused.

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Book Pictures

Do you have great photos from a recent book event in Canada that you'd like to share with us? Submit them to the Quill & Quire Flickr pool and they'll show up here.

Steve Artelle

Chris Jennings

Kaie Kellough


Hall of Honourers

Brandon Wint

Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak talks to the audience about the best and worst of Catherine the Great's favourites

Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

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