On God: An Uncommon Conversation. With Michael Lennon. New York: Random House, 16 October. 215 pp., $26.95.

On God (2007)

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.

On God Italian (2007)


The Castle in the Forest. New York: Random House, 23 January. Novel, 477 pp., $26.95.

The Castle in the Forest (2007)

Dedication: “To my grandchildren, Valentina Colodro, Alejandro Colodro, Isabella Moschen, Christina Marie Nastasi, Callan Mailer, Theodore Mailer, Natasha Lancaster, Mattie James Mailer, Cyrus Force Mailer, and to my grand-niece Eden River Alson as well to my godchildren, Kittredge Fisher, Clay Fisher, Sebastian Rosthal, and Julian Rosthal.” Mailer:

Off hand, I can’t name a serious novel where an Assistant to the Devil is the one to tell the tale, but I found the choice curiously liberating. It allowed me to enter people’s minds at will, which is of course one of the strengths of nineteenth-century fiction. You can go into any mind the author chooses to enter, and so are able to live with characters as they appear on the surface, and also as they feel within. Of course, these novels were corseted by nineteenth-century moral strictures. Sexual lines of inquiry were hardly pursued. Now, I did use the third-person omniscient in The Naked and the Dead [48.2], I went into everyone’s head without worrying about it unduly. It never occurred to me that this had become an aesthetic problem. The success of The Naked and the Dead obliged me, however, to become more sensitive to the improbability of casual omniscience. Obviously, if I was going to keep writing fiction I had to develop a bit. I will say that ever since I have been preoccupied with the problem. I certainly wrestled with it in The Deer Park. How do you inhabit more than one person’s mind? How do you avoid the manacles of the first person observer without violating something ineffable in the presentation? So I was delighted when, behold, I had this Assistant to the Devil ready to tell the tale. Because then you could certainly explore your character’s minds, not the least of whom could be young Adolf Hitler. (72.22)


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

The Big Empty (2006)

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)


Norman Mailer’s Letters on An American Dream 1963-69. Edited by J. Michael Lennon. Shavertown, PA: Sligo Press, August. 124 pp., $150.

Dedication: “For Donna, Stephen, Joseph and James. With a special appreciation for the students of English 397, Norman Mailer Seminar, at Wilkes University.”

Limited, numbered edition of 110, signed by Mr. Mailer and editor. A compilation of 76 letters to family, friends, literary associates and admirers concerning the 1964 serial publication in Esquire of Mailer’s fourth novel, its subsequent publication in revised form by Dial Press in 1965, and the 1966 Warner Brothers film version. Contains 14 illustrations (10 in color), four appendices, critical introduction, and index. Advance excerpt of nine of the letters appeared in Provincetown Arts 19 (summer 2004), 109-13. Sixteen of the letters appeared in 14.3.

Norman Mailer's Letters on <i>An American Dream</i> 1963-69 (2004)


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).


The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing. New York: Random House, 31 January. Essays and interviews. 330 pp. $24.95.

The Spooky Art (2003)

Dedication: “To J. Michael Lennon.”

Contains excerpts from approximately 190 previously published items by Mailer, plus 50 new items written expressly for this book. The great majority of the questions from interviewers were incorporated by Mailer into his replies. Mailer:

It is interesting that my ceremonial sense intensifies as I grow older, and so I have looked to assemble this book in time for it to come out on January 31, 2003. I will be exactly eighty years old on that occasion. I would hope I am not looking for unwarranted easy treatment by this last remark. Can I possibly be speaking the truth?


The Time of Our Time. New York: Random House, 6 May; London: Little, Brown, November. Retrospective anthology, 1286 pp., $39.50.

The Time of Our Time (1998)

Dedication: “To Robert F. Lucid and J. Michael Lennon.”

Organized not by dates of composition, but by the dates of the events described, this huge collection contains 139 excerpts from 26 of Mailer’s books, and from uncollected periodical pieces. In almost every excerpt, as Mailer notes in the “Acknowledgments and Appreciations,” he deleted old references, and took “the liberty of improving old sentences,” not to “alter an idea to conform to a new time,” but to “improve the prose an agreeable bit.”

Besides the foreword and “Acknowledgments and Appreciations,” the only original piece in the collection is “The Shadow of the Crime: A Word from the Author,” a one-page reflection on the 1960 stabbing of his second wife Adele. In it, Mailer explains the impact the event had on him, his wife, and his family, and the enforced delay it caused in sending a November 1960 letter to Fidel Castro, later published in the Village Voice (61.5) and The Presidential Papers (63.37). The first stanza of Mailer’s poem, his favorite poem, “The Harbors of the Moon,” is dropped in all editions of this collection.

Mailer signed 25,000 copies of 98.7, and the dustwrapper of these bears the line, “A Signed First Edition.” See 59.8a60.11, 74.19, 97.7, 97.23, 1998 entries.


Rereading the bulk of my work in the course of a spring and summer, one theme came to predominate—it was apparent that most of my writing was about America. How much I loved my country—that was evident—and how much I didn’t love it at all! Our noble ideal of democracy was forever being traduced, sullied, exploited, and downgraded through a non-stop reflexive patriotism. And every decade our great land lay open more and more to all the ravages of greed. So, yes, the question was alive—would greed and the hegemony of the mediocre—the media—triumph over democracy? Or could we also celebrate some happy reading—well, yes, we could! (98.7)


The Gospel According to the Son. New York: Random House, 2 May; London: Little, Brown, 18 September. Novel, 224 pp., $22.

The Gospel According to the Son (1997)

Dedication: “To Susan, Danielle, Elizabeth, Kate, Michael, Stephen, Maggie, Matthew, and John Buffalo.”

Acknowledgments: “I would like to give an acknowledgment to my wife, Norris; to my assistant, Judith McNally; to my friends Michael Lennon and Robert Lucid; to Veronica Windholz; and to James and Gaynell Davis, who all offered signal contributions to this work. And not least, to Jason Epstein, Joy de Menil, and Andrew Wylie.”

Rpt: All of 97.13 was published in the (New York) Daily News (97.6) in 19 parts before book publication. Advance excerpts also appeared in the New York Times (97.8) and the Chicago Sun-Times (97.9). Seven excerpts are reprinted in The Time of Our Time (98.7). See 1997 entries.


So I thought: If I can write about Osiris and Ra, then certainly the New Testament is not going to be that difficult to do. And in a sense, it wasn’t. In contrast to the complexity of the ancient Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris, this is simpler and more beautiful. And far more cohesive. It was perfectly conceivable to me that one could have a character in a novel who’s the son of God. Novelists are supposed to look into the eye of the tiger. (97.3)


Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man: An Interpretive Biography. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 15 October; London: Little, Brown. 284 illustrations, including 48 color plates, 400 pp., $35.

Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man (1995)

Dedication: “To Judith McNally; For her insights and her labors large and small that contributed so much to the publication of this work.” Discarded title: “Pablo and Fernande: Portrait of Picasso as a Young Artist.” See 59.8, 61.10, 93.4, 93.5, 94.8, 1995 entries, 96.3.


Picasso wished to penetrate into more and more secrets of the universe. Now, you have to understand that he considered himself an atheist. He had a tremendous animosity toward the church. But he was also, and this is the argument in my book, immensely aware of the presence of God in almost everything he did. He saw himself as on a parapet, if you will, daring God. (95.37)