The Executioner's Song

The Executioner's Song

4.1 22
by Norman Mailer
     
 

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The Executioner's Song, Norman Mailer's brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning story of the crimes and punishment of a 20th-century murderer and thief, is what the author calls a "true-life novel." It is a horrifying, sad, scrupulously detailed look at the events leading up to the moment Gary Gilmore was killed by a firing squad in Utah State Prison on January 17,…  See more details below

Overview

The Executioner's Song, Norman Mailer's brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning story of the crimes and punishment of a 20th-century murderer and thief, is what the author calls a "true-life novel." It is a horrifying, sad, scrupulously detailed look at the events leading up to the moment Gary Gilmore was killed by a firing squad in Utah State Prison on January 17, 1977. Based on interviews, records of court proceedings, newspaper stories, and various other documents, it covers the nine months between Gilmore's parole from prison, his final crime, and his execution. The blurring of the distinction between fiction and nonfiction was one of the central developments of postwar American literature, and Mailer's imaginative use of the facts is an extension of his earlier forays into the "new journalism." He re-creates Gillmore's tormented psyche, recounts his crimes, takes in the story of Mormonism and the history of Utah, introduces Uncle Vern, Aunt Ida, victims, cops, cons, guards, lovers, and lawyers. The "Western Voices" of small-town America and the "Eastern Voices" of the journalists and show-biz types who descend on the Gilmore story are fused into a remarkable chorus, amplifying the presence of Gilmore himself, a smart, funny, doomed man - one of the most complex characters in modern letters.

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Editorial Reviews

Joan Didion
. . .[N]o one but Mailer could have dared this book. . . .the very subject of The Executioner's Song is that vast emptiness at the center of the Western experience. . .a dread so close to zero that human voices fade out. . . .This is an absolutely astonishing book. -- The New York Times Books of the Century, reviewed October 7, 1979
Philadelphia Inquirer
Not since The Grapes of Wrath has there been an American book that so discovered the voices in our culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375700811
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/28/1998
Series:
Vintage International Series
Pages:
1072
Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 7.98(h) x 1.77(d)
Lexile:
960L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Norman Mailer was born in 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. In 1955, he was one of the co-founders of The Village Voice. He is the author of more than thirty books, including The Naked and the Dead; The Armies of the Night, for which he won a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; The Executioner's Song, for which he won his second Pulitzer Prize; Harlot's Ghost; Oswald's Tale; The Gospel According to the Son, The Castle and the Forest and On God. He died in 2007.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Provincetown, Massachusetts, and New York, New York
Date of Birth:
January 31, 1923
Date of Death:
November 10, 2007
Place of Birth:
Long Branch, New Jersey
Education:
B.S., Harvard University, 1943; Sorbonne, Paris, 1947-48

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The Executioner's Song (2 cassettes) 4.1 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This suspense filled book will captivate you from page 1 as it has to me. This thriller is about a lifelong fugitive who was freed from the terrible life of jail but soon finds life is too complicated for him to keep up. I found this book to be stupendous for many reasons. First off there's never a dull moment in the book, it always leaves the reader craving the next page! The plot is well written and has nothing that would not happen in real life. The book also shows how are jail and court system are handeling problems like the main characters Gary Gilmore. The only thing I did not like about this book was that near the end of the book more talk of politics was overriding the focus of the story. Other than that I thought this book was marvelous. I would recommend you to start reading this book now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Recently completed after 25 years a rereading of this book which, again, proved to be an intense experience. Mailer carefully details the events leading to and following the murders committed by Gary Gilmore. He uses a multi-voice approach to tell this very complex story through the eyes of Gilmore, his family, his legal team, the prison officials, the media, the publicists and to a lesser degree, the victims' families. As the novel unfolds, the story becomes intriguing, fascinating, exasperating, and overwhelming. The machinations of those deadset against the execution is particularly interesting. Norman Mailer's presentation of the Gilmore issue supported my views regarding the death penalty when I first read this book in the late 1970s. I have since entirely changed my mind about capital punishment and found to my surprise that 'The Executioner's Song' continues to support my new views. I found this to be extraordinary and it says much about the author's mastery in presenting the Gary Gilmore story. I guess it depends upon how one interprets the 'Song.' A good read for those who enjoy the Mailer style but at 1,100+ pages, a challenge at times to stick with.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I feel as though I know Gilmore personally. I believe that Mailer did an excellent job at not only telling Gilmore's story but also breaking down the justice system. I have always been against the death penalty, but I believe that this book could sway others to see not only the crime but also the person. Okay, now I am off on a tangent, but really this is an excellent book. Do not let its 1100+ pages defer you from it. It is intriguing and you will be captivated within the first chapter. Gilmore's outlook on life, love, crime, and injustice are interesting. He gives a different outlook on life that many of us will never see or appreciate in our real lives.
Chrissy_W More than 1 year ago
Convoluted, complicated, and confounding Did I enjoy this book: That word “enjoy” again; I keep getting tripped up here. I was haunted, stunned, and perplexed by this book. When two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Normal Mailer composes a story, it is truly a work of art. Unrestricted by any particular style or expectation, Mailer unfolds the painful, true story of convicted murderer, Gary Gilmore. He creates a multi-dimensional central character who demonstrates hope, aspirations, and love while simultaneously revealing himself to be violent, depraved, and ultimately evil. In the book, Gilmore leaves prison after 13 years of incarceration. Early in the novel, he says, “I want a home . . . I want a family. I want to live like other people live.” But this proves too much for Gilmore as he is unable to resist his compulsion to take what he wants without regards for others. Even his profound love for Nicole Baker is perverted by his proposed suicide pact. But he does love. And people in his life love him. The entire 1000+ page novel is convoluted, complicated, and confounding. As I believe the author intended it to be. The story is told through dialogue, letters, interviews, and court transcripts. No detail is ignored, no emotion unexplored. Would I recommend it: Mailer claims this story was given to him in its entirety by God. It’s not hard to believe this claim to be true. So I would recommend it -but to the serious reader. (Not sure how to say this without sounding snobbish.) Will I read it again: I will not. As reviewed by Belinda at Every Free Chance Book Reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
norm does a great job telling this story of theft, murder love and death.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book assigned to me as a class assignment and it had an astonishing effect on my view of capitol punishment as well as the American penal system. I have read other titles from Mailer, but this is the best to date, simply excellent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not having grown up in the US, I was not aware of this story, which made the book more enjoyable. Norman does an amazing job writing the story letting you in on the characters. My review of Good vs. excellent is that at times I found it a somewhat boring with too many irrelevant details, e.g. the legal back and forth.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
THIS BOOK IS GREAT I RECOMMEND IT TO ANYONE. THIS BOKK IS REALLY JAW DROPPING AND HARD TO PUT DOWN. MAILER IS GREAT I WAS SO CONVINCED WHEN READING THE BOOK, BECAUSE HE MAKES IT SEEM SO REAL. ALTHOUH, GILMORE WAS REALLY SELFISH TO ME AND I SAY THIS IS BECAUSE HIS ACTIONS THROUGHOUT THE BOOK WAS REALLY CRUEL.MANY PEOPLE TODAY OVERLOOK PEOPLE THAT HAVE PROBLEMS. WHEN REALLY THEY NEED TO HELP THEM OR LOOK INTO IT BECAUSE OTHERWISE THEY'LL COMMIT ACTS LIKE GILMORE. TO SUM UP PLEASE READ THE BOOK, IT'S A BOOK YOU CAN TALK ABOUT TO ANYONE.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first became acquainted with this book when it was one of the assigned texts in a seminar course I took under the instruction of Mailer's archivist at a small eastern university. Despite its intimidating length at approx. 1050, I finished it at a blistering pace in a marathon series of days during which I could hardly put it down. This is not just a book - this is a frickin' existential vision. Mailer's handling of the true story of Gilmore is provocative, at times disturbing, and altogether unforgetable. Mailer has intimated that with Gary Gilmore, he found the real-life example of the existential hero/anti-hero that he had sought in his earlier fictions (two of the titles i reccommended - Vietnam, and Dream). As well this is a perfect example of why comm. profs love Mailer for his 'new journalism', for another example of his 'journalism as novel or vice versa' see also the Armies of the Night
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was ok, but I got very bored with the additional information in it. The book is very detailed, and sometimes too overly detailed. This book has many adult situations in it and had a lot of vulgar langauge. The book is a aslow process. So if youu like action like me you ,ight not enjoy this book.