Norman Mailer: A Double Life, by J. Michael Lennon. Simon & Schuster. Hardcover 960 pages. $40.00.
Lennon’s authorized biography is free from the sycophancy that often attends such projects. Mailer himself readily admitted to and sometimes celebrated his warts. His biographer’s unrestricted access to resources not previously drawn upon has resulted in towering, balanced portrait of the man, his achievements, and his shortcomings. Mailer told Lennon to “put everything in.” This could be dangerous advice, but it was the same advice that Mailer usually gave himself in his drive to craft comprehensive responses to complex questions.
Lennon captures Mailer’s enormous drive to master his craft, to experiment with form and genre, to build a reputation, and to contend with the large issues of his country and culture for six decades. This biography is not only indispensable for students of Mailer, but also for anyone interested in taking the pulse of the United States through those decades. More and more, Mailer put himself on the stages of literary and political history, shaping both through his participation and shaping our collective memory through his influential, if sometimes abrasive, representations.
The book is fascinating throughout. All readers will benefit from Lennon’s treatment of Mailer’s writing process, his compulsive philandering, his often crass self-promotion, his unexpected discipline, his capacity for violence, his attraction to and sympathy for criminals, his relationships with his many children and his peers, and his risk-taking in all areas of life and art. . . .
To see the entire review, as posted on the Jewish Book Council website, click here: Norman Mailer: A Double Life by J. Michael Lennon | Jewish Book Council Reviews