The Essential Norman Mailer

It is easy to hate his self-important puffery, but Norman Mailer remains one of America’s best writers.  His books include:

1. The Naked and the Dead – Outdated, but still full of powerful writing, and lacking many of the later objectionable mannerisms.

2. Advertisements for Myself – A collection of journalism, a mixed bag, but the peaks are high.

3. Armies of the Night – About the 1968 Chicago Convention, I’ve never read it but it gets consistent raves.

4. Of a Fire on the Moon – The story of America’s space program, and one of the best non-fiction books period.  As a writer, one of the books I most envy.

5. The Executioner’s Song – The story of Gary Gilmore, the first half is incredible — a candidate for "The Great American Novel" — although the second half meanders.

5. Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery – I usually hate historical fiction but this is gripping.

6. Harlot’s Ghost – His best book, 1168 pages of panache and joy.  One of the most underrated and underread of the important American novels. 

The thing is, he has many other books too.  His new The Castle in the Forest, a psychological autobiography of the young Hitler, is better than his bad books but it does not compare to the books on this list.


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