Roger's Rules: Norman Mailer, a dissenting view
The news that the novelist Norman Mailer died earlier today at the age of 84 has already elicited little hagiographical murmurs. That hushed choir will doubtless turn into a deafening chorus of praise in the coming days and weeks—how much space do you suppose The New York Times will devote to its (I predict) front-page obituary? What grand superlatives will be dusted off and rolled out to commemorate the polyphiloprogentive wife-stabber and booster of homicidal misfits? “Genius” will be paraded early and often, I’ll wager, as will the extended family of adjectives emanating from the word “provocative.” One early notice described Mailer as “the country’s literary conscience and provocateur” and characterized The Armies of the Night as one of his (presumably many) “masterworks.” Perhaps, before the celebratory paeans entirely drown out critical judgment, there is room for a few dissenting observations.
Mailer epitomized a certain species of macho, adolescent radicalism that helped to inure the wider public to displays of violence, anti-American tirades, and sexual braggadocio.
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