Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Norman Mailer was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. He was brought up in Brooklyn and began attending Harvard University in 1939, where he studied aeronautical engineering. At the university he became interested in writing and published his first story when he was 18.
Mailer was drafted by the army in World War II and served in the South Pacific. In 1948, just before enrolling in the Sorbonne in Paris, he wrote a book that made him world-famous: The Naked and the Dead, based on his personal experiences during World War II. It was hailed by many as one of the best American novels to come out of the war years and named one of the "100 best novels" by the Modern Library.
In the following years, Mailer worked as a scriptwriter in Hollywood. Much of his work was refused by many publishers. But in the mid 1950s he became famous as an anti-establishment essayist. In pieces such as The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster (1956) and Advertisements for Myself (1959), Mailer examined violence, hysteria, crime, and confusion in American society.
Other famous works include: The Deer Park (1955), An American Dream (1966), Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967), Armies of the Night (1968), (awarded a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award), Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968), Of a Fire on the Moon (1970), The Prisoner of Sex (1971), The Executioner's Song (1979) (awarded a Pulitzer Prize), Ancient Evenings (1983), and Harlot's Ghost (1991).
An American Dream (1966) is Mailer's message to the American public reforming the popular idea of the American dream. In this novel Mailer proposed the idea of a personal dream per individual searching for the identity of the person. This contradicted the current idea of wealth and power being the ultimate root of Americans. This novel, despite its sharp and cutting wit, has been vastly overlooked by many modern critics.
A number of Mailer's works, such as Armies of the Night are of a political nature. He established a reputation for political reportage, covering the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1992 and 1996. In 1967, he was arrested, briefly, for his involvement in anti-Vietnam demonstrations. In 1969, he ran unsuccessfully as an independent for Mayor of New York City allied with columnist Jimmy Breslin running for City Council President, with the agenda of New York City secession as the 51st state.
Norman Mailer has been married six times, including, since 1980 to Norris Church , and has nine children.
In 1960, Mailer stabbed his second wife Adele with a penknife at a party. She was not seriously injured.
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