Cultural Backgrounds

Aldridge, John W. The Devil in the Fire: Retrospective Essays on American Literature and Culture, 1951-1971. New York: Harper’s Magazine Press, 1972. Historical chronicle of major literary developments and critiques of the most significant post-World War II writers, including Mailer.

Anderson, Elliott, and Mary Kinzie. The Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History. Yonkers, N.Y.: Pushcart Press, 1978. Forty-two chapters on the great literary magazines and Peter Martin’s detailed, annotated bibliography of 85 of them, including Big Table, Evergreen Review, Fuck You, New American Review, Paris Review, Partisan Review and Story. Definitive.

Beach, Joseph Warren. American Fiction: 1920-1940. New York: Macmillan, 1941. Classic study of eight writers—John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, John P. Marquand, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, James T. Farrell and John Steinbeck—which Mailer “devoured” in college, as he explains in “Last Advertisement for Myself before the Way Out” in 59.13.

Bloom, Alexander. Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals and Their World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. Standard work on the subject.

Bowers, John. The Colony. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1971. Memoir of James Jones’s writing colony in Illinois, including Mailer’s 1954 visit.

Bradbury, Malcolm. The Modern American Novel. Revised Edition. New York: Viking, 1992. Balanced and insightful overview of the American novel from the 1890s to the 1990s.

Broyard, Anatole. Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir. New York: Crown, 1996. The Village in the late 1940s.

Burgess, Anthony. 99 Novels: The Best in English since 1939. New York: Summit Books, 1984. The Naked and the Dead (48.2) and Ancient Evenings (83.18) are included.

Cawelti, John G. “The Writer as a Celebrity: Some Aspects of American Literature as Popular Culture.” Studies in American Fiction 5 (spring 1977), 161-74. Careful, detached discussion of celebrity and fame in the careers of nineteenth and twentieth century American writers, including Poe, James, Hemingway and Mailer.

Charters, Ann, editor. The Portable Beat Reader. New York: Viking Penguin, 1992. Perhaps the best collection of the work of the Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, Allan Ginsberg, William Burroughs, John Clellon Holmes and many others. Mailer’s “The White Negro” (57.1) is included.

Cox, James M. “Autobiography and America.” In Aspects of America: Selected Papers from the English Institute, edited by J. Hillis Miller, 143-72. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971. Lucid discussion of the forebears of Mailer and other 1960s autobiographical-political writers: Ben Franklin, Henry David Thoreau and Henry Adams.

De Grazia, Edward. Girls Lean Back Everywhere: The Law of Obscenity and the Assault on Genius. New York: Random House, 1992. Comprehensive account of the century-long struggle against censorship. See 92.12.

Dickstein, Morris. Gates of Eden: American Culture in the Sixties. New York: Basic Books, 1977. Mailer is a touchstone in this major cultural history.

Eisinger, Chester E. Fiction of the Forties. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963. Survey of the emotional temper of the decade with extended discussions of Mailer, Budd Schulberg, Irwin Shaw, John Dos Passos, Mary McCarthy, Truman Capote, Saul Bellow, Nelson Algren, Lionel Trilling and others.

Feldman, Gene, and Marx Gartenberg, editors. The Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1958. First anthology of the Beat writers and first to reprint “The White Negro” (57.1).

Fiedler, Leslie A. Waiting for the End. New York: Stein and Day, 1964. Essays on the shift in the U.S. from “a whiskey culture to a drug culture.”

Frankfort, Ellen. The Voice: Life at “The Village Voice.New York: William Morrow, 1976. Account of the newspaper’s movement away from its more radical origins. See 56.1-17.

Geismar, Maxwell. American Moderns: From Rebellion to Conformity. New York: Hill and Wang, 1958. Essays on American fiction at mid-century, from Theodore Dreiser and William Faulkner to Mailer, James Jones and William Styron. See 48.3.

Girgus, Sam B. The New Covenant: Jewish Writers and the American Idea. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984. Historical overview of Jewish writers and American culture, with close readings; Mailer and Abraham Cahan are the key figures.

Gitlin, Todd. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. New York: Bantam, 1987. Benchmark examination of the New Left.

Green, Martin. “Norman Mailer and the City of New York: Faustian Radicalism.” In Cities of Light and Sons of the Morning: A Cultural Psychology for an Age of Revolution, 58-89. Boston: Little, Brown: 1972. Green’s Mailer is a Jewish Faust, epitome of 1960s New York. Rpt: Partial in Lennon (1986).

Hamill, Pete. A Drinking Life. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994. Crisp memoir of New York in the 1950s and 1960s, with asides on Mailer.

Hayes, Harold, editor. Smiling through the Apocalypse: Esquire’s History of the Sixties. New York: McCall, 1969. From the pages of the decade’s indispensable magazine, the best collection on the 1960s. Two of Mailer’s most important pieces (60.9 and 63.8) from the period are included.

Hellman, John. American Myth and the Legacy of Vietnam. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. Examination of the reflection of the Vietnam War in American history, literature, film and popular culture. Mailer’s Why Are We in Vietnam? (67.15) is discussed.

Hoffman, Abbie. The Best of Abbie Hoffman, edited by Daniel Simon and Hoffman. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1989. Mailer provided an introduction to this collection of the writings of the mad genius of the counterculture. See 80.26.

Hoffman, Daniel, editor. Harvard Guide to Contemporary American Writing. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979. Critical survey of the most important American writing from the end of World War II through the 1970s.

Holmes, John Clellon. Passionate Opinions: The Cultural Essays. Fayetteville, Ark.: University of Arkansas Press, 1988. Essays on the Beat writers by their unofficial scribe.

Johnson, Michael L. The New Journalism: The Underground Press, the Artists of Nonfiction, and Changes in the Established Media. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1971. Rpt: Partial in Adams (1974). Pioneering study.

Jones, Howard Mumford, and Richard M. Ludwig. Guide to American Literature and Its Backgrounds since 1890. 4th edition, revised and enlarged. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972. Select bibliography and outline of American literature in its intellectual, social and cultural contexts.

Jones, Peter G. War and the Novelist: Appraising the American War Novel. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1976. Comprehensive study of World War II novels, including those by Mailer, James Jones, Irwin Shaw, James Gould Cozzens and Kurt Vonnegut.

Jumonville, Neil. Critical Crossings: The New York Intellectuals in Postwar America. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991. The debates and dilemmas of the cultural elites. Fine opening chapter on the 1949 Waldorf conference.

Klein, Holger, editor (with John Flower and Eric Homberger). The Second World War in Fiction. London: Macmillan, 1984. Contains chapters on the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, the Soviet Union and Japan. The Naked and the Dead (48.2) is given careful analysis, especially the “uneasy” liberalism of Lt. Hearn.

Klein, Marcus, editor. The American Novel since World War II. New York: Fawcett, 1969. One of the best collections on this topic to date. Includes Mailer’s 1965 address to the Modern Language Association. See 66.5.

Kazin, Alfred. Bright Book of Life: American Novelists and Storytellers from Hemingway to Mailer. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973. Major study by our finest postwar critic.

_____. Contemporaries. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962. Rich collection of Kazin’s reviews and essays from the 1940s through the early 1960s including his review of Advertisements for Myself (59.13).

Kerrane, Kevin, and Ben Yagoda, editors. The Art of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism. New York: Scribner’s, 1997. Most comprehensive collection of its kind, extending from Daniel Defoe and Jack London through Mailer, Michael Herr and Rosemary Mahoney.

Lasch, Christopher. The New Radicalism in America, 1889-1963: The Intellectual as a Social Type. New York: Random House, 1965. The roots of American radicalism and a critique of “the isolation of American intellectuals, as a class, from the main currents of American life.” Mailer is the chief whipping boy.

Lois, George. Covering the 60s: George Lois, the “Esquire” Era. New York: Monacelli Press, 1996. Full reproduction of 70 of George Lois’s covers for Esquire in the 1960s and 1970s, with commentary. See 71.27.

Macdonald, Dwight. The Memoirs of a Revolutionist: Essays in Political Criticism. New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1957. Political essays and reports by an iconoclastic critic, including a memoir of Macdonald’s debate on Russia with Mailer at Mt. Holyoke College in the winter of 1952. See 60.8, 83.57.

Madden, David, editor. American Dreams, American Nightmares. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970. Nineteen original critical essays on fiction dealing with dream and nightmare themes, including Ihab Hassan’s essay on Why Are We in Vietnam? (67.15).

Malin, Irving, editor. Contemporary American-Jewish Literature. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973. One of the best collections on these writers, including both general essays and individual appreciations of Mailer, Saul Bellow, Lionel Trilling, I.B. Singer, Leslie Fiedler and others, with an extensive bibliography.

McAuliffe, Kevin Michael. The Great American Newspaper: The Rise and Fall of “The Village Voice.New York: Scribner’s, 1978. Standard history.

McDarrah, Fred W., editor. Kerouac and Friends: A Beat Generation Album. New York: William Morrow, 1984. Collection of key historical articles and essays on the Beat movement by a veteran Village Voice photographer, with 190 of his photographs.

Menand, Louis. “It Took a Village.” The New Yorker (January 5, 2009): 36–45. A history of The Village Voice, Mailer’s discovery of his talent for journalism. Also includes a background on Mailer’s relationship with Jean Malaquais and Dan Wolf.

Millett, Kate. Sexual Politics. Garden City, N.J.: Doubleday, 1970. Feminist critique of Mailer, D.H. Lawrence, Sigmund Freud, Henry Miller and others. Mailer responded in The Prisoner of Sex (71.20).

Millgate, Michael. American Social Fiction: James to Cozzens. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1964. Elegant study of American novelists from 1887 to the late 1950s, including Mailer.

Mills, Nicolaus, editor. Legacy of “Dissent”: 40 Years of Writing from “Dissent” Magazine. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994. See 54.1.

_____. The New Journalism: A Historical Anthology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974. One of the earliest collections of literary journalism, with useful prefatory matter.

Nakjavani, Erik. “Norman Mailer’s Reception of Inherited Sociocultural Norms (1950–1960).” The Mailer Review 10.1 (2016): 275–301.

Panichas, George A., editor. The Politics of Twentieth-Century Novelists. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1971. Essays on British, continental and American novelists, including Mailer, with an important introduction by John W. Aldridge.

Phillips, William. A Partisan View: Five Decades of the Literary Life. New York: Stein and Day, 1983. Memoir by Partisan Review’s long-time editor. See 52.1, 68.4.

Podhoretz, Norman, editor. The Commentary Reader: Two Decades of Articles and Stories. New York: Atheneum, 1966. Contains Alfred Kazin’s important introduction, “The Jew as Modern American Writer,” and many other significant essays. See 62.22, 68.4.

Polsgrove, Carol. It Wasn’t Pretty Folks, but Didn’t We Have Fun: “Esquire” in the Sixties. New York: W.W. Norton, 1995. The serial publication of An American Dream (64.2-9) is but one strand in this history, which focuses on editor Harold Hayes.

Rader, Dotson. Blood Dues. New York: Knopf, 1973. Memoir of the counterculture in the 1960s, including the rise and fall of the SDS. See 72.18.

Rahv, Philip. Essays on Literature and Politics, 1932-1972, edited by Arabel J. Porter and Andrew J. Dvosin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978. Contains the most important essays of Rahv, a long-time editor of Partisan Review, including those from his influential 1949 collection, Image and Idea, and his review of An American Dream (65.7).

Reed, T.V. Fifteen Jugglers, Five Believers: Literary Politics of American Social Movements. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992. Argument for the synchronicity of literary theory and political action via an examination of writings by Mailer, James Agee, Ralph Ellison and others.

Rideout, Walter B. The Radical Novel in the United States, 1900-1954. New York: Hill and Wang, 1956. Still the finest critical survey of these novels, including Mailer’s first two.

Scholes, Robert, and Robert Kellog. The Nature of Narrative. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968. Comprehensive and stimulating historical overview.

Smith, Richard Norton. The Harvard Century: The Making of a University to a Nation. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986. History of Harvard, focusing on five of its greatest presidents.

Solotaroff, Theodore. The Red Hot Vacuum and Other Pieces on the Writing of the Sixties. New York: Atheneum, 1970. Solid collection of literary journalism about Mailer and his contemporaries: Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Flannery O’Connor, William Burroughs, Seymour Krim and others.

Tabbi, Joseph. Postmodern Sublime: Technology and American Writing from Mailer to Cyberpunk. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995. Ambivalent attitudes to technology in the writings of Mailer, Don DeLillo and Joseph McElroy.

Tanner, Tony. City of Words: American Fiction, 1950-1970. New York: Harper and Row, 1971. The finest twentieth-century British critic of American fiction examines the work of 25 novelists, including Ralph Ellison, Thomas Pynchon, Susan Sontag, Ken Kesey, Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. His chapter on Mailer, “On the Parapet,” is unlikely to be surpassed. Rpt: Partial in Adams (1974), Bloom (1986).

Tytell, John. Naked Angels: The Lives and Literature of the Beat Generation. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976. The origins of the Beat sensibility in the culture of the 1950s.

Vogelgesang, Sandy. The Long Dark Night of the Soul: The American Intellectual Left and the Vietnam War. New York: Harper and Row, 1974. Early and excellent overview of the New Left’s involvement in the anti-war movement, including Mailer’s.

Wakefield, Dan. New York in the Fifties. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992. New York City during the decade in which American society began its transmogrification.

_____. Supernation at Peace and War: Being Certain Observations, Depositions, Testimonies, and Graffiti Gathered on a One-Man Fact-and-Fantasy Tour of the Most Powerful Nation in the World. Boston: Little, Brown, 1968. Account of Wakefield’s trip around the United States and his assessment of a nation moving deeper into the Vietnam War.

Weber, Ronald, editor. The Reporter as Artist: A Look at the New Journalism Controversy. New York: Hastings House, 1974. Early and valuable anthology of 26 reprinted pieces that debate the New Journalism.

Whitmer, Peter O. (with Bruce VanWyngarden). Aquarius Revisited: Seven Who Created the Sixties Counterculture that Changed America: William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Norman Mailer, Tom Robbins, Hunter S. Thompson. New York: Macmillan, 1987. Based on interviews with all seven.

Wolfe, Tom. The New Journalism, with an Anthology, edited by Tom Wolfe and E.W. Johnson. New York: Harper and Row, 1973. The editors’ selections are as important as Wolfe’s apology for literary journalism and his attack on the contemporary novel.

Wolf, Daniel, and Edwin Fancher. The Village Voice Reader: A Mixed Bag from the Greenwich Village Newspaper. New York: Doubleday, 1962. The first anthology of essays and columns from the Voice, including several of Mailer’s, and Kenneth Tynan’s review of Advertisements for Myself (59.13). See 56.1-17.

Wreszin, Michael. A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald. New York: Basic Books, 1994. Standard biography of Mailer’s longtime friend (1949 to 1983), which includes accounts of the 1949 Waldorf conference and the 1968 march on the Pentagon. See 49.1.