Minor Mailer--at great length. The "Pontifications" are assorted interviews-with-Mailer over the decades, with reckless, occasionally amusing or shrewd comments on: masturbation; writing style; The Deer Park; Katharine Anne Porter (who "used to be respected. . .the way a cardinal is respected--weak people get to their knees when the cardinal goes by"); drugs; drink; Communism; artists vs. scientists; Manson; Mick Jagger; women's lib ("Let's face it, they're winning their war"); existentialism; karma; abortion; the Pill; homosexuality; Anne Beattie's work ("whenever fiction doesn't know where it's going, then there's a tendency to return to the novel of manners"); The New Yorker ("awful" in its out-of-touch periods, but "they hold the act together when nothing's happening"); Reagan; Borges and Marquez ("the two most important writers in the world today"); Hemingway, Freud, Muhammad Ali. Somewhat more focused and coherent, then, are the dozen short and long essays--most from magazines. There are two large-scale efforts. In "Of a Small and Modest Malignancy," Mailer (third-personing himself throughout) regards "his own wretched collaboration with the multimillion-celled nausea-machine, that Christkiller of the ages--television": he recreates all his sweaty TV talk-show appearances, offers a superb vignette of Dorothy Parker, and goes after old enemies (Capote, Vidal, Janet Flanner, the FBI) with babyish, hilarious brio. "A Harlot High and Low" is less engaging--with its disjointed, admittedly paranoid speculations on the vast web of Howard Hughes/CIA/Watergate connections. But Mailer can still be a solid literary critic--with a canny comparison of the Hemingway and Henry Miller careers (Mailer knows the Art of Reputation better than anybody). As film critic--on Last Tango in Paris--he is more flashy than thoughtful: "we have been given a bath in shit with no reward." And Mailer-the-social-critic is here with a piece on graffiti: the "excrescence" of "slum populations chilled on the one side by the bleakness of modern design, and brain-cooked on the other by comic strips and TV ads with zooming letters." No surprises, then, and rarely deep--but also rarely dull: Mailer-mania for the sizable following.
Pub Date: May 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0316544183
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1982


NonfictionMIND OF AN OUTLAW by Norman Mailer
by Norman Mailer
FictionTHE CASTLE IN THE FOREST by Norman Mailer
by Norman Mailer
NonfictionTHE BIG EMPTY by Norman Mailer
by Norman Mailer