The Time of Our Time. New York: Random House, 6 May; London: Little, Brown, November. Retrospective anthology, 1286 pp., $39.50.
Dedication: “To Robert F. Lucid and J. Michael Lennon.”
Organized not by dates of composition, but by the dates of the events described, this huge collection contains 139 excerpts from 26 of Mailer’s books, and from uncollected periodical pieces. In almost every excerpt, as Mailer notes in the “Acknowledgments and Appreciations,” he deleted old references, and took “the liberty of improving old sentences,” not to “alter an idea to conform to a new time,” but to “improve the prose an agreeable bit.”
Besides the foreword and “Acknowledgments and Appreciations,” the only original piece in the collection is “The Shadow of the Crime: A Word from the Author,” a one-page reflection on the 1960 stabbing of his second wife Adele. In it, Mailer explains the impact the event had on him, his wife, and his family, and the enforced delay it caused in sending a November 1960 letter to Fidel Castro, later published in the Village Voice (61.5) and The Presidential Papers (63.37). The first stanza of Mailer’s poem, his favorite poem, “The Harbors of the Moon,” is dropped in all editions of this collection.
Rereading the bulk of my work in the course of a spring and summer, one theme came to predominate—it was apparent that most of my writing was about America. How much I loved my country—that was evident—and how much I didn’t love it at all! Our noble ideal of democracy was forever being traduced, sullied, exploited, and downgraded through a non-stop reflexive patriotism. And every decade our great land lay open more and more to all the ravages of greed. So, yes, the question was alive—would greed and the hegemony of the mediocre—the media—triumph over democracy? Or could we also celebrate some happy reading—well, yes, we could! (98.7)