On 24 January, The Big Empty is published. It is warmly, but not widely reviewed.
In the spring, he submits the manuscript of The Castle in the Forest to his new editor at Random House, David Ebershoff, who replaces Jason Epstein after his retirement.
On 4 May, Judith McNally, Mailer’s secretary for nearly three decades, dies. Mailer’s health worsens, and his weight loss concerns his family and doctors. Two of his old friends die, Styron on 1 November, and Robert F. Lucid on 12 December. Mailer speaks at a Boston memorial for Styron on 14 December.
“Norman Mailer on Anger and Love.” Lifelines: Unusual Characters Tell Their Stories, by Marie-Louise Von Der Leyen. Munich: Piper Verlag. Omnibus interview in which Mailer discusses WWII, Orson Welles, his visits to Moscow, marriage, his wife Norris, and the unconscious: “The unconscious mind is almost a separate creature within you that has its own needs and its own demands. As a writer you should definitely pay attention to it.”
Love Bade Me Welcome: The Life of Phyllis Ott. By Phyllis Silverman Ott-Toltz and Barbara Bamberger Scott. Lake Forest, CA: Behler Publications. Memoir by the sister of Mailer’s first wife, Beatrice Silverman. “Sliver,” as she was called, was the roommate of Mailer’s sister at Radcliffe, and later had an affair with Mailer, which she discusses.
“Relative Values: Norman Mailer and His Son John.” Interview by Sue Fox. Sunday Times Magazine (London), 19 November, 7, 9, 11. Father and son discuss growing up as a Mailer.
“Flag-waving U.S. Shows Signs of Totalitarianism.” Interview with Takaaki Misuno. Asahi Shimbum (English language edition) Tokyo, 14 September, 28. Focuses on the threat to democracy created by the war in Iraq, and also contains first notice of Mailer’s forthcoming novel, The Castle in the Forest (07.10)
“Fallen God of Small Things.” Article-interview by Daniel Swift. Financial Times (London), 15-16 April, W6. In a piece focused on The Big Empty (06.2), Mailer also talks about his earlier work and the current American malaise.
“The March of Progress.” Nation, 13 March, 5. Two lists of 37 items each, modern and postmodern. Examples: steel and plastic; Picasso and Warhol; Sinatra and Eminem; epistles and blogs; war and terrorism.
“Still Punching.” Interview by Howard Halle. Time Out New York, 2-8 March, 160. Mailer jumps all over corporations and the Bush administration, saying both have “an absolute emptiness of moral ethos.” He also praises Oprah Winfrey for reviving interest in Tolstoy and Anna Karenina.
“The Nerve Interview: Norman Mailer and John Buffalo Mailer.” By Will Doig. Conducted in March. Sex, marriage and feminism are the key topics in this interview. Mailer also notes that he likes Donald Rumsfeld better than any of the other neocons because he looks like his father, I.B. Mailer.
The Big Empty: Dialogues on Politics, Sex, God, Boxing, Morality, Myth, Poker and Bad Conscience in America. With John Buffalo Mailer. New York, Nation Books, February. Series of conversations between the Mailers, father and son, 218 pp., $14.95
Dedication: To a lovely lady—Norris Church Mailer.” Soft cover. Some of the conversations in this collection appeared in a different form in the following: 04.7, 04.14, 05.2, and a speech Mailer gave to the Neiman Fellows at Harvard, 6 December 2004.
The old notion with which I grew up was that human nature could be seen as progressive in its essence. That happy assumption is now in disrepute. It is as if we are coming to the end of the Enlightenment, for humankind is no longer seen as necessarily capable of creating a world of reason. Rather, we seem to be expanding in two opposed directions at once—as if men and women are growing more sane, more compassionate, more liberated, and more sensitive to moral nuance at the same time that we are becoming more irrational, more hateful, or more confined within an orthodoxy (that is often murderously opposed to a neighboring orthodoxy). We are certainly more inclined to abstract judgment upon the morality of our neighbor. (06.2)