Kudos for new "Mailer Review"

The latest issue features a previously unpublished short story by Norman Mailer and work of noted writers and scholars.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 4, 2012) – When “Vanity Fair” columnist James Wolcott described the latest issue of “The Mailer Review” as, “No dry academic exercise in critical analysis and placement, The Mailer Journal is rich in its variety of styles and approaches…,” Phillip Sipiora felt he had fulfilled his mission as editor. 


“Keeping in the spirit of Mailer’s personality, we set out to make the Review every bit as readable as the writer we’re honoring,” said Sipiora, a professor at the University of South Florida.


“Each issue takes readers on a very specific journey that is meant to be illuminating and actually enjoyable,” he said.


“Why Mailer Matters” is the theme of the latest issue of “The Mailer Review,” a joint venture produced by the University of South Florida, The Norman Mailer Center and The Norman Mailer Society, now in its sixth year.  Examined directly as a writer and in connection with such authors as Gore Vidal, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Updike, James Jones, William Burroughs and George Plimpton, Mailer and his legacy are observed anew.


In his “Reflections” article that opens the volume, Sipiora writes, “We hope that the pages of this issue provide a glimpse into the complexity of Norman Mailer and his relationship(s) to the seminal matters of his time and our time.” And he makes it clear that the theme is far from taking a defensive posture. “On the contrary, the staff of the Review believes, strongly, in the fundamental, enduring strength of the Mailer legacy.”


Solidifying his case, Sipiora catalogues the wealth of current activity around Mailer and his work, from two important forthcoming books, J. Michael Lennon’s long-awaited biography and a collection of Mailer’s germinal essays, to the release of a set of Mailer’s four films, plans for an HBO production and the thriving Norman Mailer Writers Colony. 


As in previous editions, the list of contributors is a compendium of leading scholars whose takes on the myriad facets of Mailer’s body of work reveal fascinating insights into the complex and often controversial author.  


“We always look for a range of viewpoints and perspectives,” said Sipiora, who teaches in USF’s Department of English, in the College of Arts and Sciences.  “With each issue I’m amazed at what we find to include and yet we’re still in our infancy with this ongoing project.  There is still a lot to say.”


Mailer’s authorized biographer, J. Michael Lennon, Emeritus Professor of English at Wilkes University, writes about Mailer’s relationship with the late Gore Vidal and in addition his interview with Mailer after the publication of “Harlot’s Ghost” is included in this volume. Lennon, along with author and professor of English emeritus at Southern New Hampshire University Robert Begiebing, author Ray Elliott, of the James Jones Literary Society and Plymouth State University Professor Warren E. Mason, focuses specifically on why Mailer and James Jones matter, taken from the 2011 conference on the topic. Noted author and critic Morris Dickstein, distinguished professor of English at City University of New York Graduate Center, shares the letter he wrote nominating Mailer for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Maggie McKinley, assistant professor at Harper College, looks into Mailer’s “An American Dream” to reexamine Mailer’s approach to violence and masculinity while Barry H. Leeds, a well-known authority on Mailer and Ken Kesey from Central Connecticut State College, discusses this book’s influence on his own life. Bob Batchelor, assistant professor of English in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University, looks at the ways Mailer and Updike handled celebrity.  University of California Santa Barbara lecturer, Mashey Bernstein writes about his first encounter with Mailer and reviews the book, “Norman Mailer: The Self-Appointed Messiah,” by Gwendolyn Chabrier.  Sean Abbott, former English professor at Columbia University, relates Mailer’s influence on our technological era and Jason Mosser, assistant professor at Georgia Gwinnett College, identifies Mailer as a “Genre Bender” – to mention a few.

Of special note in this issue is a previously unpublished short story, “The Blood of the Blunt.” Mailer is believed to have written it around 1951 and it is reprinted both in photocopies of the original typewritten pages – complete with edits and notations – and formatted for the journal.

“This was a tremendous find for us,” said Michael Shuman, deputy editor and a continuing instructor in the English Department. He enjoys the process of reaching out to the writers and scholars who contribute to each issue.  “Each year presents us with a journey of discovery,” he said. “As we prepare for the next issue, devoted to ‘Norman Mailer and Contemporary Literature,’ we’re already finding new perspectives on Mailer’s work from both established scholars and from researchers new to the field.  We’re excited that Mailer’s influence remains strong even as contemporary literary trends come and go. He was indeed one of the great visionaries of our time.”

For more information and to subscribe to “The Mailer Review,” click here or visit http://normanmailersociety.org/the-mailer-review/. 

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.