Mailer does two interviews (one in New York and the other in Playboy) with his son John Buffalo on politics, protest, marijuana and the Clinton-Lewinsky affairs, among other topics; these will become the basis for their jointly written 2006 book, The Big Empty: Dialogues on Politics, Sex, God, Boxing, Morality, Myth, Poker and Bad Conscience in America.
In August, Letters on An American Dream, 1963-69, a collection of 76 letters concerning Mailer’s fourth novel, edited by Lennon, is published.
His interview with Richard Stratton, a friend since the early 1970s, concerning his views on marijuana, perhaps his most extensive comment on the topic, appears in the November-December issue of High Times.
Now living full-time in Provincetown, Mailer continues work on The Castle in the Forest, and hosts Texas hold ’em poker games several nights a week.
The Spooky Art, edited by Lennon, is published on Mailer’s 80th birthday, and receives a warm reception, the review of Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times being the largest exception. Mailer writes to the publisher of the Times to complain about how her negative reviews of five consecutive books have appeared earlier than almost all other reviews, thus creating a negative atmosphere.
Modest Gifts: Poems and Drawings is published in early spring, and on 7 April, Why Are We at War? a collection of his fulminations against the Iraq War and the presidency of George W. Bush, is published.
In June, he and Lennon begin taping a series of ten conversations about his spiritual beliefs that will later be published as On God: An Uncommon Conversation.
Following the first meeting of the Norman Mailer Society in Brooklyn, Mailer and Norris entertain all attending at his Brooklyn Heights Apartment.
Begins work on a collection, The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing, consisting of excerpts from his essays, interviews and other works on the publishing world, the psychology of the writerly life, and literary techniques, with an emphasis on the role of the unconscious.
In February, Jack Abbott commits suicide in prison. Mailer issues a statement saying that Abbott’s life “was tragic from beginning to end.”
In October, Gore Vidal and Mailer reprise Don Juan in Hell, joined by Norris and Lennon, in a benefit for the Provincetown Theater. Vidal, as the Devil, steals the show, and Mailer says his old friend was “almost as good as Charles Laughton in the role.”
In December he caps a year of comment on the causes and effects of 9/11 with a long conversation on the topic with another old friend, Dotson Rader, published in the (London) Sunday Times Magazine.
At the invitation of John Irving, Mailer, Norris and George Plimpton perform a staged reading of Zelda, Scott and Ernest in Manchester, VT. The play, written by Plimpton and Tom Quinn, is drawn entirely from the correspondence of Ernest Hemingway (played by Mailer), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Plimpton), and Zelda Fitzgerald (Norris). Over the next two years the trio will give over a dozen performances in the U.S. and Europe.
He responds to the 9/11 tragedy with a series of interviews and essays, including one in the Times of London on 13 September.
Between performances of the play, Mailer and Schiller travel together and research the story of F.B.I. agent Robert Hanssen, who is arrested and convicted of spying for the Russians.
Mailer’s teleplay is completed in November and broadcast on CBS the same month. Schiller transforms the teleplay into a narrative, Into the Mirror: The Life of Master Spy Robert P. Hanssen, which is published the following year.
Norris learns she has intestinal cancer and undergoes the first of several operations. Mailer is beset with various health problems: angina, arthritis, macular degeneration, hearing loss and a hip replacement.
In July, he completes a teleplay based on an account of the trial of O.J. Simpson, American Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense by Schiller and James Willworth.
Begins writing his Hitler novel, The Castle in the Forest.
Tom Wolfe responds to negative reviews of his 1998 novel, A Man in Full, by Mailer, John Updike, and John Irving in a long essay, published in his 2000 collection, Hooking Up; the trio of detractors responds sharply.
Mailer’s memories of his ten months in Paris, 1947-48, are published as “Postwar Paris: Chronicles of Literary Life” in the spring number of Paris Review.
In the annual issue of Provincetown Arts magazine, Mailer discusses at length Provincetown and what it has meant to him with the magazine’s publisher, Christopher Busa, a friend and neighbor.
Begins research on a novel about Hitler, triggered by a reading of Ron Rosenbaum’s 1998 book, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of his Evil.
On 6 May, 50 years to the day after the publication of The Naked and the Dead, Mailer’s anthology of his work, The Time of Our Time, is published and receives a warm reception.
The publication party, also a celebration of Mailer’s recent 75th birthday, gathers a large crowd at the Rainbow Room of Rockefeller Center, including William Styron, George Plimpton, Kurt Vonnegut, Lillian Ross, all of his family, and a surprise guest, Muhammad Ali.
Mailer’s article on the 1996 campaign appears in the January issue of George.
In the spring, begins work on The Time of Our Time, a massive anthology of excerpts from his work arranged not by date of publication or composition, but according to the dates of events depicted. Preceded by serial publication (19 parts) in the New York Daily News (then edited by his friend Pete Hamill), The Gospel According to the Son is published on 18 September. Reviews are mixed.
Covers the 1996 political conventions in the summer. His report on them appears in the November issue of George. He then covers the campaigns of Senator Dole and President Clinton in the fall.
Preceded by excerpts in The New Yorker and New York Review of Books, Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery is published on 12 May.
Receives honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on 27 May.
Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man: An Interpretive Biography is published on 15 October. It receives the worst reviews of any of his books save Barbary Shore, many of them written by art critics.
Begins work on The Gospel According to the Son, a retelling of the New Testament as told by Jesus.