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Sparkling Times for Norman Mailer's Legacy

The latest issue of The Mailer Review reflects the celebrated author’s multifaceted personality with articles on some of his major works and reminiscences from his family.

By Barbara Melendez

      USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 25, 2015) – “The times continue to sparkle with promise for the Mailer legacy,” writes USF English Professor Phillip Sipiora in his introduction to this year’s issue of “The Mailer Review.”

Each year, this impressive journal arrives with scintillating scholarship devoted to one of American literature’s leading icons, Norman Mailer. It falls into place among major works: J. Michael Lennon’s long-awaited biography, "Norman Mailer: A Double Life," Sipiora’s own "Mind of an Outlaw" and Donald L. Kaufmann’s "Norman Mailer: Legacy and Literary Americana, which came out early last year. Central Connecticut State Distinguished Professor Barry H. Leeds reviews the latter book in this issue.

As in the journal’s past seven issues, the gathering of perspectives takes readers into surprising territory – in this case geographic: Russia, Slovenia and Afghanistan as well as Brooklyn and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

A drawing by Norman Mailer in the current
issue of the Mailer Review.
Courtesy of the Norman Mailer Estate.

A previously unpublished work by Mailer, “La Petite Bourgeoisie,” written in 1951, makes this issue particularly noteworthy for its presentation of Mailer’s own typewritten pages, complete with his strikeouts and edits. Another added treat is a small drawing by him from 1985, comprising the numbers one through seven cleverly arranged into a portrait.

Lennon, Mailer’s authorized biographer, contributes an excerpt from his final interview with the award-winning author that took place in 2007. Jules Feiffer, a close associate of Mailer’s, was interviewed by writer Mark Olshaker for a laughter-filled conversation that touches on the cartoonist’s relationship with Mailer when they worked for the Village Voice.

Susan Mailer  Photo by Gerald Lucas

Close relatives of Mailer’s get to weigh in with their observations taken from the 2013 Mailer Society Conference where Susan Mailer delivered the keynote address. A Mailer family roundtable offered a glimpse of what it meant to be part of what Barbara Mailer Wasserman, his sister, describes as “a fun family.”

Detailed examinations of Mailer’s work come from leading writers and scholars, including Andrew Gordon, Alexander Hicks, Lawrence R. Broer and Raymond M. Vince who look at, respectively, Mailer masterworks "Harlot's Ghost," "Ancient Evenings," "The Prisoner of Sex" and "The Executioner's Song."

Lennon and Texas A&M Distinguished English Professor Jerome Loving examine the ways the world received "An American Tragedy" and "The Executioner's Song," including ensuing controversies. And there’s still more to say about Mailer in relation to Ernest Hemingway as we find out from Stone Meredith, Capella University core writing faculty and Kathleen “Kat” Robinson, who earned her doctorate from USF and is now teaching at Eckerd College.

Mailer’s fascination with boxing gets attention from authors Ronald K. Fried, Leeds and Bill Lowenburg while another writer, Jeanne Thomas Fuchs, discusses interests that Mailer and Muhammad Ali had in common. And in a poem by Jack B. Bedell, titled “George Foreman in Zaire” we learn it was was written “– for Norman Mailer, who would know.”

Prof. Sipiora with Mailer at the Norman Mailer Society
Conference in Provincetown, MA. in 2006, the author's last.
Photo by Gerald Lucas

“What makes this issue special is that we were able to integrate a number of important facets of Mailer’s work and his life, including a short story that had never been published," said Sipiora. “Putting it together meant calling on so many living and connections to Mailer not only as a writer and a celebrity but as a man, as a father and husband. All of these aspects contributed to making him a memorable figure of our time and future times. Mailer’s long-term legacy has begun its ascent.”

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563

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