1997

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.

Norman Mailer (1997)

in Days | 79 Words

97.26

“Norman Mailer.” Interview by Brian Lamb. In Booknotes: America’s Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas, by Brian Lamb, 162-65. New York: Random House. Included are interviews with 47 “reporters,” 26 “public figures,” and 46 “storytellers,” including Mailer. The latter include Shelby Foote, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Simon Schama, Daniel Boorstin, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Peggy Noonan and Charles Kuralt. The host of C-Span’s “Booknotes” interviewed Mailer on the air on 25 June 1995 on Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery (95.16). Lamb leaves his questions out of his interviews with 119 writers collected in this volume. Mailer’s comments deal mainly with the six months (1992-93) he spent in Minsk, researching Lee Harvey Oswald’s two years there. He also describes his writing routine.

97.25

“Struggling with God: A Conversation with Norman Mailer.” Interview by Barbara Probst Solomon. Culturefront 6 (winter 1997-1998), 36-41. Thoughtful interview by a veteran Mailer interviewer, focusing on the religious ideas behind 97.13.

97.24

Interview with George Plimpton. In Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career, by George Plimpton, passim. New York: Random House, December. Mailer (along with most of the New York literary world) is quoted several times in this oral biography of Capote, which uses the same method as Plimpton’s and Jean Stein’s Edie: An American Biography (82.17).

97.23e

Mailer Brings Lit Fest to Humorous Close.” Article by Felicia Matthew. The Daily Campus (Southern Methodist University), 20 November. Mailer read from The Gospel According to the Son (97.13), and also spoke of why he used the first person: “I knew that if I wrote this book in first person. I would not come out alive. When you are writing, you have to follow your instinct, and my instinct said to do it in the first person.”

97.23d

“Norman’s Kingship.” Article-interview by Clive Sinclair. Jewish Chronicle, 3 October. Mailer discusses his intentions for The Gospel According to the Son (97.13), stating that except for the sayings of Jesus he found the New Testament to be “almost disappointing. . . once you get past these sayings, there’s not much in the way of prose left. It’s the political needs that you feel.” By this he means the desire to “build a powerful church; you don’t build a powerful church on an ordinary man full of human weakness. Therefore they suppressed the man. I wanted to redress the balance, to rediscover this man’s overlooked humanity.”

97.23c

“In the Name of the Son.” Article-interview by Alan Cadwick. The List (UK), 25 September-9 October, 20-21. In a London hotel, Mailer repeats what he has said in previous interviews, namely that the Gospels are “told intermittently well, and there are some extraordinary moments, but a lot of the time, it just doesn’t work.” He also criticizes his ex-wife Adele’s memoir, The Last Party (97.11), which was published at the same time as The Gospel According to the Son (97.13):

It has one detail that’s accurate, which is that I stabbed her. Other than that, everything I saw in the book was inaccurate. It didn’t anger me. It depressed me. She’s not a stupid woman and I just thought she could have written a better book.

97.23b

And the Word Was with Norman.” Article by Michael Glover. Independent, 24 September. Account of the same event described in 97.23a. Asked why he didn’t dig deeper into the personality of Jesus, as he had with Marilyn Monroe, Mailer said, “I wanted to tell the story, I wanted to reach people. I wanted to point out the compatibility between Christ and Marx, to re-emphasize the notion of caring.”

97.23a

“How Mailer Came to the Greatest Story Never Told.” Article by Alex Bellos. Guardian, 23 September, 3. Account of Mailer speaking to 200 people in a London cinema about The Gospel According to the Son (97.13). Originally, he said, he wanted to publish it anonymously and deny for three months that he didn’t write while claiming another writer has tried to plagiarize his style. But the publishers vetoed the idea. “I would have had fun, and the reviews would probably have been a little better.”

97.23

Mailer Retells the Greatest Story Ever.” Article-interview by Bob Minzesheimer. USA Today, 8 September. Mailer comments on 97.13, listing some of the theologians he read (Elaine Pagels, Robert Funk, John Meier), and announces that he is working on a retrospective, the best of his fiction and nonfiction (98.7).