The Time of Our Time

The Time of Our Time

by Norman Mailer

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Norman Mailer's The Time of Our Time is a giant retrospective, a rich, boisterous portrait of our times seen through the fiction and reportage of one of America's greatest writers.

Mailer selected and edited the contents of this work to create an ongoing narrative of events large and small that have shaped America over the last fifty…  See more details below


Norman Mailer's The Time of Our Time is a giant retrospective, a rich, boisterous portrait of our times seen through the fiction and reportage of one of America's greatest writers.

Mailer selected and edited the contents of this work to create an ongoing narrative of events large and small that have shaped America over the last fifty years.  Included are passages from The Naked and the Dead, The Deer Park, An American Dream, The Armies of the Night, The Executioner's Song, Ancient Evenings, and Harlot's Ghost as well as portraits of Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Truman Capote, JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Lee Harvey Oswald, Madonna, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon as they appeared in some of his best magazine pieces.  How readable is the result!  It is as if one is being drawn into a fabulous novel with extraordinary characters, real and fictional, who appear and reappear through the years until a vast mural of America as a nation comes into focus, full of follies and blunders, surprisingly elegant and often crazy--tragic in its losses and large in its triumphs.

On display here are Mailer's enormous energies, his vast curiosity, and his powers of delineation.  Here too are his errors of judgment and deed, both personal and literary.  As a writer, Mailer eschews all limits.  He goes at the world like a tiger.  What will surprise many readers of The Time of Our Time is what a shrewd and stylish tiger he has been.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
How to sum up 50 years of writing? Mailer's 31 books since 1948some great, some infuriating or silly, but none of them safehave held him a consistently high place among postwar American writers; in between his novels, his charismatic accounts of political conventions, prize fights, demonstrations, and moon landings effected a sea-change in magazine journalism, launching a thousand self-referential copycats. No subject ever seemed outside Mailer's swaggering intelligence as he evolved from young war-novelist to Existential essayist riffing above the cultural storms. Mailer doesn't need to stake his claim as a novelist or social critic: This sprawling reader does both, following Mailer's two careers by presenting novel excerpts set chronologically and thematically among his most memorable nonfiction, right up to his account of the 1996 campaign. In another half-century, will he be remembered as a great novelist or a gifted man of letters who divided his talent? Readers who don't balk at this collection's heft (1279 pages) may decide for themselves. This compilation is an ego indulgence, but even Mailer's indulgences are lucid and surprising.

--Nathan Ward, Library Journal

NY Times Book Review
A large anthology of his own work in the 50th year of The Naked and the Dead and the 75th of himself; a veritable social history of postwar America as Mailer (so often correctly) saw it and sometimes made it.
Entertainment Weekly
An often mesmerizing attempt to reflect the times through the distorting mirror of the writer's own intense preoccupation during the 50 years since his first novel....No observer has had a keener instinct for the essences of politicians' characters or for the textures of celebrated and marginal American lives, and no contemporary American writer has been less willing to say only what it is safe to say.
David Denby
Mailer drives us straight through six decades of American history with a potent mixture of fiction and reporting, reflection and portraiture. No contemporary writer could match the book's variety, its spiritual violence and striving....He was fearless where others were circumspect.

--David Denby, The New Yorker

James Shapiro
From the outset of his career, Mailer declared that his ambition was to write the great American novel, a book that 'will be fired to its fuse by the rumor that I once pointed to the farthest fence and said that within 10 years I would try to hit the longest ball ever to go up into the accelerated hurricane air of our American letters.' Forty years have now passed since these words were written. Mailer has never hit that home-run book, but in his repeated attempts, honestly recorded in The Time of Our Time, we are offered a remarkable portrait of an artist and of the indelible mark he has left on American life and letters.

--James Shapiro, New York Times Book Review

Kirkus Reviews
Anticipating his eventual biographers by identifying the themes that have animated his work, and apparently anxious to remind the current literary audience of some of the highlights in his massive body of work and lengthy career, Mailer has come up with a typically idiosyncratic version of an anthology. Essays, stories, and excerpts from his novels are arranged here not so much by subject matter as by the years the material covers, from the 1940s up to the 1990s (with detours to ancient Egypt and Palestine in the first years of the millennium). The year 1964, for instance, is represented by an excerpt from the novel An American Dream; 1966 by a portion of the novel Why Are We in Vietnam?; and 1967 and 1968 by work drawn from The Armies of the Night and Miami and the Siege of Chicago. This chronological ordering does serve to point out Mailer's immersion in his times, and his often very prescient view of events. No other American novelist has been so actively, visibly involved in broad questions of American culture and politics. Taken as a whole, the anthology also reminds the reader of just how prolific, and original, Mailer has been. It's size, too, points out Mailer's unwillingness to end anything; the slender works of his youth and maturity have been replaced by some massive, and intermittently tedious, works of fiction. Still, this is a unique, and very useful, work, and certainly the best possible introduction to one of the most prodigious careers in modern American letters.

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Modern Library Series
Edition description:
Modern Library Edition
Product dimensions:
6.07(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.78(d)

Read an Excerpt

In the late thirties, there used to be any number of dirty jokes circulating about Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor, but they worked their way out of the side of one's mouth.

It was the time, after all, of eight-page cartoon books featuring Popeye and his King Kong prong, or Olive Oyl having one on the house (or the horse).

Now, in the years of Bill Clinton, the jokes are on the Internet or come to you by e-mail: "How is Clinton different from the Titanic?" "Why, only 240 women went down on the Titanic." Monica Lewinsky told a friend: "You could say I earned my presidential knee-pads."

In America, the mood is almost gay. A trifle nauseated, but gay, like a rough trip on an amusement ride. Once again, the American spirit is investing in a matter about which few knew anything, yet the ignorant were certain they would keep being rewarded. . .

Yes, Hillary has suffered humiliations on a scale few women in history can match. Yet, there it is. She comes out early on the morning of Bill's State of the Union speech and defends her man with fury, conviction, and purpose. He--like O. J. Simpson--is "100 percent not guilty." Her man is not guilty. Hillary is on the way to becoming a legend. How many millions of wives in America are now obliged to say to themselves: Could I ever defend my guy like that? Hillary is wonderful.

Hillary is wonderful. She not only defends, she attacks. She speaks of a right-wing conspiracy to destroy her husband. It satisfies our deep need in America to find a new conspiracy every year.

What powerful instincts are in Hillary. The first lady's features, when studied, areremarkable. On the brow and mouth of very few women is written so vast and huge a desire for power. Of course, she is loyal to her Bill, loyal certainly by her good side, but even more loyal out of darker and more powerful urges. For if she remains loyal to him she will yet become a legend in America, and that is necessary to satisfy what may be her true aim--to become the first woman elected president of the United States.

If Al Gore should win and have two terms, then the year is 2008. Should Gore not win in the year 2000, then 2004 is her moment. The price is to be loyal to a man she might prefer to brain with a brick. She must know the old Italian saying: "Revenge is a dish that people of taste eat cold." How much better to wait and put him in a position of being First Man. Bill will not feel comfortable to find himself in Denis Thatcher's old slot. . .

Under Clinton, the rich got vastly richer. All the while, on his spiritual saxophone, Clinton played tender resonant ballads for blacks and women. Some of them even got high-end jobs. It was gilt-edged tokenism. Measured as a Democrat, however, who might retain some real social purpose, he was a dork and a nerd.

On the other hand, but for the possible exception of Hillary, he was the most powerful Clintonite in the country; he was, indeed, a mighty lion of a Clintonite--he was his own most important and powerful project. That is true of more than a few of us. The crucial difference here is that Clinton is most mighty as a lion when his favorite project, himself, is threatened. He is at his best when wounded. How many can say that? Yes, he certainly comes through when it is a matter of projecting for one dramatic night what a wonderful all-seeing, all-doing American president he is. . .

Does it matter that now it is a younger woman under the media gun and he is now commander in chief? The great question merely deepens: How can he, Bill Clinton, endanger his presidency so? Of course, men take weird chances when the navigator at the center of oneself whispers in the dream: Kid, your cancer is near.

For some, the cure for cancer is to visit the moon of moral peril. If the cause of cancer is undissolved shame, and cancer is a revolt of the cells against the hegemony of the CEO (that mysterious Chief Ego Officer who runs the body), then it may be that Clinton is full of undissolved shame. Let us warrant that it is not because of oral sex.

His shame, if he has any, is that he has never been able to stand up to the big money. He is powerless before men of huge financial size. Face to face with such buckos, the wind dies and the proud flag on the flagship commences to droop. As Monica Lewinsky is to Bill Clinton, so is Clinton to the big money--just a kid trying to earn his presidential knee-pads.

If it all comes to the worst for him and he is obliged to resign, a denouement which seems unlikely at this writing, well, an old moral law will have been observed: The criminal is rarely condemned for his true crime.

Nixon's sins in Watergate were venial compared to the monstrosity of allowing the war in Vietnam to wind down over four years while two million more Asian men and women were killed. Clinton's major crime is not that he has charged relations of one sort or another in the White House (that palace of presidential purity!) with a young girl, but that he betrayed the poor and enriched the wealthy. As a churchgoer, he ought to know that the gates of heaven are not always open if you approach with that little blemish on the record.

"Lord," prayed Augustine, "make me pure, but not yet."

--From The Observer of London (August 2, 1998)

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