Norman Mailer was one of the towering figures of twentieth-century American letters and an acknowledged master of the essay. Mind of an Outlaw, the first posthumous publication from this outsize literary icon, collects Mailer’s most important and representative work in the form that may rank as his most electrifying.
As America’s foremost public intellectual, Norman Mailer was a ubiquitous presence in our national life—on the airwaves and in print—for more than sixty years. With his dizzyingly supple mind and pugnacious persona, he engaged the public more than any other writer of his generation. The trademark Mailer swagger is very much in evidence in these pages as he holds forth, with penetrating insight and discursive elegance, on culture, ideology, politics, sex, gender, and celebrity, among other topics. Here is Mailer on boxing, Mailer on Hemingway, Mailer on Marilyn Monroe, and, of course, Mailer on Mailer—the one subject that served as the beating heart of all of his nonfiction.
From his early essay “A Credo for the Living,” published in 1948, when the author was twenty-five, to his final writings in the year before his death, in 2007, Mailer was always wrestling with the big themes of his times. He was one of the most astute cultural commentators of the postwar era, a swashbuckling intellectual provocateur who never pulled a punch and was rarely anything less than interesting. Mind of an Outlaw spans the full arc of Mailer’s evolution as a writer, including such essential pieces as his acclaimed 1957 meditation on hipsters, “The White Negro”; multiple selections from his seminal collection Advertisements for Myself; and a never-before-published essay on Sigmund Freud.
Incendiary, erudite, and unrepentantly outrageous, Norman Mailer was a dominating—sometimes domineering—force on the battlefield of ideas. Featuring an incisive Introduction by Jonathan Lethem, Mind of an Outlaw forms a fascinating portrait of Mailer’s intellectual development across the span of his career as well as the preoccupations of a nation in the last half of the American century.
About Norman Mailer
Born in 1923, Norman Mailer was one of the most important American writers of the post–World War II era and a leading intellectual since the 1960s. He is the author of more than thirty books. The Castle in the Forest, his last novel, was the eleventh of his books to appear on the New York Times bestseller list. His first novel, The Naked and the Dead, was on the Times list for sixty-three weeks and has never gone out of print. His 1968 nonfiction narrative, The Armies of the Night, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He won a second Pulitzer for The Executioner’s Song and is the only person to have won Pulitzers in both fiction and nonfiction. Five of his books were nominated for National Book Awards, and he won a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation in 2005. Mr. Mailer died in 2007.
About Phillip Sipiora
Phillip Sipiora is a professor of English at the University of South Florida. He is the author or editor of three books and has lectured nationally and internationally on twentieth-century literature and film. He is a longtime scholar of Norman Mailer and the editor of The Mailer Review.
About Jonathan Lethem
JONATHAN LETHEM is the author of eight novels. A recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, Lethem has also published his stories and essays in The New Yorker, Harper's, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and the New York Times, among others.