Exclusive: The author's “White Negro” essay helps sink a book set for 2023
Well put, and necessary. It's hard enough for anyone who published in the Pleistocene era before the 21st century to find a readership now. And it's not just writers. A theatre major and local star of community productions had never heard of Cary Grant. At all. The name meant nothing to her. We were at dinner with her patents. I turned to them and said "This is your fault", which did not endear me to the family.
Spot on. On what planet would a savvy publisher shy away from reigniting fresh controversy over a dead bestselling author? What better way to promote a backlist? This is not just cowardice on PRH's part, it demonstrates remarkably poor executive judgment. My advice to Skyhorse: get this book out pronto to capitalize on all the fun. And thank you for making the nuanced connection to the DOJ suit re: the S&S acquisition. One more nail in the coffin.
This is a beautiful piece of writing.
Publishing is always about money, like every other industry. Romanticizing assholes from an era that's aging out of existence to generations that cringe at writers like Mailer won't sell. Controversy absolutely does sell, which is why all the major publishers scramble to publish writers on the full political spectrum, no matter how radical. What a ridiculous concept to suggest otherwise. I dare you to find a bestseller list without a controversial writer. This entire article exists only because YOUR particular author didn't make the cut, then you are broadly applying that to the entire industry. It's not about content, it's about relevancy. Why is it, again and again, the same demographic constantly writing these articles whining about not being relevant anymore like this is a new concept?
Following the skewed logic of "Romanticizing assholes from an era that's aging out of existence" means we'd all have to stop reading anything that wasn't published this week...
Mailer has never been an easy read, alternating between brilliant, alienating, and boring. Which is why I devour his work and took deep dives into his canon when I was in my grad school creative writing program. He challenged me, the reader, to engage with ideas. Would I like him as a person? Irrelevant. His probing and pushing back against establishment voices--both conservative and liberal--thrust Mailer into a category all his own. The Executioner's Song remains among my top favorites books, one well worth rereading every few years. This is a smart article. If we "cancel" Mailer, we are knuckling under to the forces he so brilliantly pilloried.
This hits the bullseye, and I'm not a big Mailer fan either as a writer or person. I liked THE NAKED AND THE DEAD. However, the staggering decline in the quality of published material in this century is heavily tied to the timorous, corporate takeover of the publishing profession. My work in ancient days involved the search for the new, surprising, often controversial, whether popular or literary, from Roth to Wambaugh to Anne Rice. The ignorance that rules the present is hard to swallow. Barbara Gilson
Brilliant content, scintillating prose. Keep fighting the good fight against all such attacks to adult thought.
“…Philip Roth (for sexism and bad relations with women), Saul Bellow (for same, plus his conservative politics), Vladimir Nabokov (for Lolita), J.D. Salinger (for weirdness, sexually and otherwise), John Updike and John Cheever (for unrelenting Waspiness), William Styron (for appropriating the life of slave rebellion leader Nat Turner), among others. All of their publishers await the next cultural boil, each author just an objection away from disappearing.”
Neither Mailer nor any of these others are in any danger of disappearing.
If alive today, Norman Mailer would love that this debate has rescued him from three decades of irrelevance. Novels, journalism, movies, politics... mostly his aim was fame. He was the ultimate troll, who used both virtue signaling & misogyny / homophobia / racism to get under the spotlight. We spent two years researching Mailer for a ten-part series podcast about him and fellow criminal writers Jack Henry Abbott and Jerzy Kosinski. You can hear all about it on penknifepodcast.com.