To muse over like old film clips in this election year, here are Mailer's four newsmaking reports of conventions past--including the whole of Miami and the Siege of Chicago--with a preface that invites us to consider them together. As a novelist, he writes, he was expected to "see the world with my own eyes and my own words"; he had the advantage over a journalist that he could explore a situation and reflect upon the nature of its reality. So, covering the 1960 nomination of JFK in Los Angeles for Esquire, he wrote "Superman Comes to the Supermarket." The Democratic elect are assembled for what was to be the last time--Stevenson glowing like a lover ("one was reminded of Chaplin"), Johnson the compromised, Eleanor Roosevelt, "a lady who was finally becoming a woman," Carmine DeSapio and Kenneth Galbraith (Mailer's pregnant pairing), scrappy Bobby Kennedy, and of course JFK: the musical comedy hero, the embodiment of that "ecstasy and violence which is the dream life of the nation." (Did Mailer, as he suggests elsewhere, create Camelot?) Less intense but hardly less pointed is the delineation of the Goldwater and Scranton forces at San Francisco in 1964, caught up in a contest otherwise slated for oblivion; and then one comes to Mailer's still-festering impressions of the 1968 conventions in Miami and Chicago. By 1972 the impulse seems to be spent, for he makes the McGovern victory as boring as the Nixon gala, perhaps more so; as he acknowledges, his strength is the perverse. But in the meantime his personal, novelist's journalism, intersecting with Sixties' individualism, spawned the Hunter Thompsons--no future campaign will be left to Teddy White--and in the New York Times now John Leonard writes familiarly of the fall of Superfan (Nixon). The inclusion of photographs seems a mistake; Mailer's politics zoom larger than life.