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The Time of Our Time

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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 years.  Included are passages from The Naked and the Dead, The Deer Park, An American Dream, The ...
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Overview

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

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

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.
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.
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

  • ISBN-13: 9780375754913
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Series: Modern Library Series
  • Edition description: Modern Library Edition
  • Pages: 1328
  • Product dimensions: 6.07 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer was born in 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York.  After graduating from Harvard, he served as a rifleman in the South Pacific during World War II.

He published his first book, The Naked and the Dead, in 1948.  Mailer won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1968 for The Armies of the Night and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize again in 1980 for The Executioner's Song.

He has directed four feature-length films, was co-founder of The Village Voice in 1955, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of New York in 1969, and was president of the American PEN from 1984 to 1986.


From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

One of the most provocative authors of the 20th century, Norman Mailer stood at the forefront of the New Journalism, a form of creative nonfiction that wove autobiography, real events, and political commentary into unconventional novels. In a career that spanned nearly 60 years, he wrote more than 30 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; and his last novel, The Castle in the Forest, a chilling fictional portrait of the youthful Adolf Hitler. On November 10, 2007, he died of renal failure, leaving behind an astonishing literary legacy.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Nachem Malech Mailer
      Norman Mailer
    2. Hometown:
      Provincetown, Massachusetts, and New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 31, 1923
    2. Place of Birth:
      Long Branch, New Jersey
    1. Date of Death:
      November 10, 2007

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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Table of Contents

Foreword
Acknowledgments and Appreciations
Prelude - I 3
Boxing with Hemingway 3
Prelude - II 5
Our Man at Harvard 5
The Second World War - I 9
The Attack Across the River 9
The Second World War - II 33
The Four Dead Germans 33
The Second World War - III 39
The Death of Mary Gallagher 39
Aftermath 48
Portrait - I 50
Dorothy Parker 50
The Second Novel 54
Preface to Barbary Shore 54
Excerpts from Barbary Shore 55
The Cold War - I 61
Lunch at 21 61
The Cold War - II 82
The Man Who Studied Yoga 82
The Cold War - III 109
The Face of the Rock 109
Hollywood - I 131
Herman Teppis at the Laguna Room 131
Getting to Know You - I 175
Miking It 175
Getting to Know You - II 177
Homage to El Loco 177
The Cold War - IV 194
Imbibing Thursdays 194
More Than a Bit of Violence in Me 207
Literary Pain and Shame 207
Quickly: A Column for Slow Readers 209
The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster 211
Uruguay - I 231
The Car Windows Were Clouded 231
Uruguay - II 239
A Course in Counterespionage 239
Getting to Know you - III 282
Night Beat 282
Portrait - II 287
Truman Capote 287
A State of Mind as Declared in 1959 294
The Shits Are Killing Us 294
Hip, Hell, and the Navigator 295
Hollywood - II 300
The Jewish Princess 300
The Time of Her Time 318
Convention Time 343
Modene - I 343
Superman Comes to the Supermarket - I 345
Modene - II 357
Superman Comes to the Supermarket - II 361
First Lady in Waiting 367
Superman Comes to the Supermarket - III 374
Modene - III 376
The Shadow of the Crime 384
A Word from the Author 384
An Open Letter to Fidel Castro 385
Cuba 394
Washington - I: Preparing for the Bay of Pigs 394
Washington - II: Until Just Before the Bay of Pigs 396
Miami - I: The Day After the Bay of Pigs 400
Washington - III: Keeping Up with Modene 403
Miami - II: Artime and Castro 409
Miami - III: Poisoning Castro 418
New York - I: Whom? 424
Hollywood - III 426
Marilyn and Arthur Miller 426
Found Objects - I 446
A Mighty Mother 446
Found Objects - II 451
Oswald and Marina in Minsk 451
10,000 Words a Minute 456
Journalists 456
The Mafia 463
The Death of Benny Paret 464
Kennedy, Castro, and Oswald 470
The Six Time Zones Between Dallas and Paris 470
Fort Worth to Dallas 475
A High-Powered Rifle 477
A Visit to Lubyanka 480
Terribly Bad Characters 484
A Hero to Himself 488
The Widow's Elegy 492
The Third Widow 495
An American Dream 498
Conservatism and Liberalism 529
A Debate with William Buckley 529
My Hope for America: A Review of a book by Lyndon B. Johnson 540
Excerpt from a Speech at Berkeley on Vietnam Day 545
A Happy Solution to Vietnam 552
Why Are We in Vietnam? 557
On the Art of the Absurd 584
Metaphor Versus Science 584
The Armies of the Night 589
The Liberal Party 590
Toward a Theater of Ideas 602
A Transfer of Power 615
The Marshal and the Nazi 624
Miami and the Siege of Chicago 631
Bobby Kennedy 631
Gene McCarthy in Cambridge 636
Miami Beach, August 2-8 639
Chicago, August 24-29 660
Property 667
A Massacre on Michigan Boulevard 686
Convention's End 696
Of a Fire on the Moon 704
The Psychology of Astronauts 704
Wernher Von Braun 719
Red and Mollie 729
Lift-off 734
The Greatest Week 740
A Dream of the Future's Face 761
Women's Liberation 773
The Raging Affair: Kate Millett and Henry Miller 773
Millett and D. H. Lawrence 790
Brooding over Abortion 805
Togetherness 809
The Cavett Show with Gore Vidal and Janet Flanner 810
Four More Years 828
St. George 828
Candidate Emeritus 832
A Visit to Dr. Kissinger 836
Pat Nixon 843
Nixon Comes to Miami 846
Watergate 851
Into the Credibility Gap 851
Interview with Ehrlichman 854
A Harlot High and Low 866
Nixon's Fall 877
The Faith of Graffiti 880
The Fight 903
Bantu Philosophy 903
King of the Flunkies 908
The Run 913
The Impresario 921
The Dressing Room 925
Right Hand Leads 929
The Man in the Rigging 936
A Long Collapsing Two Seconds 942
Portrait - III 948
Christ, Satan, and the Presidential Candidate 948
The Executioner's Song 960
Brenda, Johnny, and Gary 960
Gary and Nicole 971
The Guns 991
Back in Jail 996
Gilmore and Gibbs 1015
The Embalming 1024
Amateurs - I 1030
Excerpts from Tough Guys Don't Dance 1030
Amateurs - II 1045
The Best Move Lies Close to the Worst 1045
Huckleberry Finn - Alive At 100 1053
A Folly Repeated 1059
A Speech on Salman Rushdie 1059
The Best of Abbie Hoffman 1063
Children of the Pied Piper 1065
A Review of American Psycho 1065
Creationism Revisited 1078
How the Wimp Won the War 1080
By Heaven Inspired 1092
Portrait - IV 1114
Madonna 1114
Portrait - V: Clinton and Dole 1136
The War of the Oxymorons 1136
How the Pharaoh Beat Bogey 1151
The Battle of Kadesh 1175
Nefertiri and Menenhetet 1215
In Preface to the Gospel - I 1223
An Interview on Existentialism and Karma 1223
In Preface to the Gospel - II 1228
A Jewish Limb on the Judeo-Christian Ethic: Miracles 1228
In Preface to the Gospel - III 1237
The Communication of Christ 1237
The Gospel According to the Son 1240
John the Baptist and the Devil 1240
Faith and Lack of Faith 1253
Judas 1254
An Entrance into Jerusalem 1256
A Dialogue with a Scribe 1261
Mary Magdalene 1264
A Resurrection 1268
After Death Comes Limbo 1272
The Harbors of the Moon 1277
Appendix 1279
Rounding Sexgate 1280
A Man Half Full 1285
Sources and Permission Credits 1301
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Foreword

Over the course of our lives, most of us compose in the privacy of our minds a social and cultural history of the years through which we have passed. We often think of it as a collective remembrance that others will share with us. We even speak of it as our time. In fact, it is only one's personal time, one's own intimate social, cultural, and historic time, one's image of what transpired in the world....We are forever revising our personal history of the past until it includes everyone toward whom we have reacted over our years....If that was so, then I look upon myself as blessed. Because I had the good fortune to be able to write about my time as if it were our time.
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