To Mailer, a Good Soldier Puts War on Paper.” Article-interview by Bob Minzesheimer. USA Today, 10 April 2003. The writer asks a number of war novelists, including Mailer and Tim O’Brien, to comment on how the soldiers in the upcoming war in Iraq will write about it. Mailer says because of the complexity of American motives for going to war, “a soldier in the middle of all that . . . might come home with marvelous stories.” He recalls that when he spoke to an editor in 1946 about writing a war novel, he was discouraged. The editor told him readers had lost interest in war. But when The Naked and the Dead (48.2) came out in the spring of 1948, “readers were ready. It was the luckiest timing of my career.”


Why Are We at War? New York: Random House, 7 April. Essay and Interviews. 11 pp. $7.99.


Dedication: “To Norris.”

Soft cover. A polemic against the Iraq War assembled from two interviews (02.9, 02.10), and a speech from the period September 2002 to February 2003 (03.20).


Modest Gifts: Poems and Drawings. New York: Random House, spring. 275 pp. $14.95.

Modest Gifts (2003)

Dedication: “To Norris.” Soft cover. A reprint of the majority of Mailer’s poems (some revised) from two earlier works: his 1962 collection, Deaths for the Ladies (and Other Disasters) (62.3), and his 1966 miscellany, Cannibals and Christians (66.11), along with a suite of eight new poems collectively titled “Hemingway Revisited.” The Hemingway poems also appeared in Paris Review (see 03.28). Interspersed with the poems are about 100 of Mailer’s captioned and humorous line drawings, some of which are obliquely related to the poems. He also includes is introduction to the 1971 soft cover edition of Death for the Ladies published by New American Library (71.31).

Mailer: “These pieces, for the most part, will be comprehensible on first approach. Some barely qualify as poems. They are snippets of prose called short hairs, there to shift your mood a hair’s width” (03.17).


“‘Yes, I Misbehaved Sometimes.’” Article-interview by Zoe Heller, Daily Telegraph, 3 March, 19. Omnibus piece that focuses mainly on Mailer’s feeling toward women. Asked about his negative comments about women writers in Advertisements for Myself (59.13), Mailer replies:

Look, I got carried away. I didn’t edit myself as carefully as I do these days. I happened to grow up in a family with a lot of wonderful adoring women—a marvelous strong mother and a lot of terrific aunts. So I took it for granted that I could say anything I wanted about women because they knew I loved them.

He also speaks of his ambition: “My theory of writing books has always been that it’s better to try for something big and fail than not to try at all.”


“Norman Mailer in L.A.: Battling the Armies of the Right.” Article by Marc Cooper. L.A. Weekly, 27 February-6 March. Quotes Mailer’s comments on the Iraq War at a 22 February luncheon at the home of Stanley Sheinbaum in Los Angeles: “We’re in a pre-fascist atmosphere here in America.” Continuing, he said that the White House zealots shouldn’t be taken too seriously: “Jesus is half their soul. Evel Knievel is the other half. An average American with a deep Christian faith is an oxymoron.”


Mailer, 80, hasn’t Lost His Bite.” Article by Scott Timberg. Los Angeles Times, 26 February. Mailer answered questions from poet Carol Muske-Dukes at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles on 24 February. Mailer described his affinity to Picasso: “Every time he had a new wife or a new mistress, his style would change.” Asked about Virginia Woolf’s style, he said it sets his “teeth on edge. She’s much too satisfied with the smell of her own armpit.”


“Fighting Words: Scrappy as Ever at 80, Norman Mailer Takes on Bush and War with Iraq.” Article-interview by Heidi Benson. San Francisco Chronicle, 25 February, D1, D8. Account of a Q and A after a Mailer speech before the Commonwealth Club at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Mailer’s theme is that Bush needs a war “as a steppingstone away from our problems.” He also discussed literary matters: “Publishing is absolutely addicted to best-sellers, more than ever before. And best-selling books are the enemy of good literature.” See 03.20.


“Mailer Erupts: Bush Needs a War.” Daily Telegraph, 21 February, 22-23. This long essay, a speech given at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on 20 February, is a polemic against the Iraq War with extended discussion of the idea contrived by the Bush administration about weapons of mass destruction, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Christianity. Rpt: as “Only in America” in New York Review of Books, 27 March; (partial) Why Are We at War? (03. 18); Sunday Independent (Ireland), 2 March, 18-19; and The Commonwealth, the magazine of the Commonwealth Club. See 03.20.


Mailer Was the Rage.” Article-interview by Ron Rosenbaum. New York Observer, 6 February, 1, 8. Rosenbaum explores Mailer’s demanding theological beliefs which place humans squarely in the middle of the battle between God and the Devil. For a postscript, Rosenbaum calls Mailer for comment. Mailer obliges him by pointing out that the cosmic struggle is not binary:

Finally I feel we live in a triangular relation with God and the Devil, that we’re a separate force. It’s not that we’re little puppets pushed around by an anode pole and a cathode pole. We push back on them. So it makes for a very complex universe, complex moral universe, because you never know at a given moment whether you’re doing it [acting, ‘pushing back’] as a human or whether you’re being tricked by one or the other of two opposed deities.