On 23 January, The Castle in the Forest is published. Reviewed widely and with much praise, it becomes Mailer’s 11th best seller. He remains the only postwar American author to have one or more best sellers in each of seven consecutive decades.
Accompanied by John Buffalo, he goes on a book tour in the winter and early spring. In February in San Francisco, he has his last meeting with Lois Mayfield Wilson, a former lover with whom he has been friendly for almost 60 years.
The final manuscript of On God: An Uncommon Conversation is submitted in late spring. On 27 June, he appears with Günter Grass and Andrew O’Hagan at the New York Public Library, and tells the audience that this will probably be his last public appearance, but on 22 July, he has one more outing, taking part in a discussion about his films at Lincoln Center with film critic Michael Chaiken and others.
The summer number of Paris Review contains a long interview with him conducted by Andrew O’Hagan.
In October, the first issue of the Mailer Review, edited by Phillip Sipiora, and sponsored by the Mailer Society and the University of South Florida, is published.
On 3 October, enters Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York where he has surgery for a collapsed lung. A series of infections and complications ensue. Mailer dies at 4:28 a.m. on 10 November, and is buried in Provincetown a few days later.
On God is published on 16 November; an excerpt is published in New York with Mailer’s photograph on the cover. The book is overlooked in the wave of commentary following Mailer’s death, and receives few reviews.
” ‘A Series of Tragicomedies’: Mailer’s Letters on The Deer Park.” Mailer Review, 44-76. Sixteen letters from Mailer to friends and associates, including William Styron, Robert Lindner, Mickey Knox and his Japanese translator, Eiichi Yamanishi, in which Mailer describes the long, agonizing process of completing and publishing his third novel, The Deer Park (55.4), published by Putnam’s on 14 October 1955 after being turned down by seven publishers. Rpt: fifteen of the letters are collected in 14.3.
“The Naked and the Dead: Excerpt from unpublished 1942 play.” Mailer Review, 34-43. Act 3, scene 3 from the play that Mailer wrote from 31 August to 14 September 1942, and based on his experience working as an orderly at the Boston State Hospital (formerly the Lunatic Asylum) in the Mattapan section of Boston.
“Norman Mailer.” The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books. Edited by J. Peder Zane. New York: Norton, 95. In an accompanying note, Mailer said that with the exceptions of Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks and Jorge Luis Borges’ Labyrinths, the books “I think of as great were read when I was still a young and unpublished writer.” His list: Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, Pride and Prejudice, U.S.A., Moby-Dick, The Red and the Black, Buddenbrooks, Labyrinths. See 89.14, 99.10, 99.11.
“On the Authority of the Senses.” Excerpt from On God: An Uncommon Conversation (07.39). Playboy, December, 78-80, 168, 170, 172.
“The Lion in Winter: Five Snapshots.” Article-interview by Andrew O’Hagan. New York Observer, 13 November. Four of the snapshots are accounts of meetings with Mailer—in Provincetown in 1997; London, 2002; Provincetown again in 2007; and at the New York Public Library, Mailer’s penultimate public appearance with Günter Grass, 28 July 2007. Asked if he feels superior to his younger self, Mailer said: “I just look at him and think what a fool he is . . . you’ve got to remain a fool at all costs.” He also tells O’Hagan that his favorite poem is Yeats’ “The Second coming”: “It gives me the prodigious disruption that has lived at the heart of the 20th century. There is something wrong, something unbalanced about this century; we all have a sense of unease about where the future is going.”
“The Author at Home: Norman Mailer.” Essay-interview by Robert McCrum. Observer, 11 November, 28. Thoughtful essay, speckled with quotes from Mailer:
New York was grinding me down. I loved New York, too much. When I was younger I used to be able to go out and drink and eat and have a good time, and work the next day. I got to the point where I couldn’t do that. Either I wrote, or I had a good time.
“Advertisements for a Gay Self.” Brief Interview by Daniel Asa Rose. New York, 27 October. Mailer tells Rose that he had no difficulty imagining gay sex in The Castle in the Forest (07.10). “I thought, ‘Come on, it’s not that hard to imagine what it’s like.'”
On God: An Uncommon Conversation. With Michael Lennon. New York: Random House, 16 October. 215 pp., $26.95.
Dedication: From Mailer: “To my wife, my sister, my children, my grandchildren; from Lennon: “To my sisters, Kathleen Arruda and Maureen Macedo.”
Consists of edited transcripts of ten conversations between Lennon and Mailer that took place in Provincetown from June 2003 to June 2006.
I have spent the last fifty years trying to contemplate the nature of God. If I speak specifically of fifty years, it is because my pride in the initial thirty-odd years of my life was to an atheist—how much more difficult and honorable I then considered that to be, rather than having a belief in an All-Mighty divinity. I was a novelist, after all (as will be noted frequently in these interviews), so I was intensely, even professionally, aware of the variety, and complexity, of human motivation and its offspring—morality. It took a good number of years to recognize that I did believe in God—that is, believed there is a divine presence in existence.
Rpt: 73.38, 73.43.
“The Rise of Mailerism.” Advance excerpt from On God: An Uncommon Conversation (07.39). New York, 15 October, 24-29, 115. Cover story. Rpt: 73.39.