in Primary


The Big Empty: Dialogues on Politics, Sex, God, Boxing, Morality, Myth, Poker and Bad Conscience in America. With John Buffalo Mailer. New York, Nation Books, February. Series of conversations between the Mailers, father and son, 218 pp., $14.95

The Big Empty (2006)

Dedication: To a lovely lady—Norris Church Mailer.” Soft cover. Some of the conversations in this collection appeared in a different form in the following: 04.7, 04.14, 05.2, and a speech Mailer gave to the Neiman Fellows at Harvard, 6 December 2004.


The old notion with which I grew up was that human nature could be seen as progressive in its essence. That happy assumption is now in disrepute. It is as if we are coming to the end of the Enlightenment, for humankind is no longer seen as necessarily capable of creating a world of reason. Rather, we seem to be expanding in two opposed directions at once—as if men and women are growing more sane, more compassionate, more liberated, and more sensitive to moral nuance at the same time that we are becoming more irrational, more hateful, or more confined within an orthodoxy (that is often murderously opposed to a neighboring orthodoxy). We are certainly more inclined to abstract judgment upon the morality of our neighbor. (06.2)