THE ARMIES OF THE NIGHT
History As A Novel, The Novel As History
Once history inhabits a crazy house, egotism may be the last tool left to history" and Mailer the Beast rampant, narrow-eyed Mailer the Novelist, mesmerized Mailer the Participant, tip-top Mailer the Protagonist; Mailer the floating hair Patriot, and just pliant innerman Norm, have together pulled off this remarkable journal, even overtaking Mailer the Image to burst into new playing fields of awareness. Through the dualistic strains which Mailer has worried before--old and oleo America--comes Mailer's good feel of "an undiscovered patriotism. . . a sharp searing love for his country," alas "now a beauty with a leprous skin." The peace march on the Pentagon of last October (in the course of which Mailer politely skirted a guard and spent a long night in a Virginia prison) opened up a chasm of confusion, contradiction and portent. Then a sense of a dynamic American-ness sets Mailer to an appreciation of the diverse: from a Nazi to a Worthy (judicial) Opponent; from black militants to M.P.'s to the hippies, a masked ball going to battle (a breathtaking view). Predictably liberal squares do not share in the benison. Mailer's feints and bell-donging around his fellow "Notables" is a late night popcorn joy, and there is much that is stylish and shrewd. Mailer has finally caught a current, plotted a drift, however, and this is an important and passionate pilgrimage.