Maxwell Geismar on Norman Mailer (part one)
Maxwell Geismar on Norman Mailer (part two)
On Maxwell Geismar and Norman Mailer:
In the two previous posts of Maxwell Geismar on Norman Mailer, it seems to me that Geismar is primarily critiquing the political or ideological component of Mailer’s work — which is easy to understand coming from a literary critic whose work and livelihood were threatened, then destroyed, for political, ideological reasons during the Cold War. In my view, Geismar correctly and astutely calls Mailer on these shortcomings.
I think Armies of the Night and Executioner’s Song are highly accomplished non-fiction works, essentially, aesthetically and otherwise. However, Armies does have the political shortcomings that Geismar points out. From a broad political point of view it is largely disappointing, empty.
Otherwise (not focusing solely on the political), I think the best of Mailer’s nonfiction is very good, and an order of magnitude better than the best of his fiction. Mailer has high regard for his second novel Barbary Shore and that happens to be his only novel that much works for me. That said, I scarcely remember a thing about the ideas in Barbary Shore. If trying to work as allegory the novel seemed to me to fail to engage, or to be slight, but I did find engaging and curious the day-in and day-out self trials of the young writer/narrator’s thought.