Norman Mailer claimed he was “imprisoned with a vision” which would “settle for nothing less than making a revolution in the consciousness of our time.” Unfortunately for Mailer, he was far too good a writer to ever do that.
The writers who have achieved such a “revolution” have always produced poorly written and unrelentingly dull books. Marx and Hitler may have changed history, but ‘Das Kapital’ and ‘Mein Kampf’ will never be page turners, let alone literature.
As for Mailer, he wrote over 40 books, a dozen of which are important works of literature. No small feat when considering how often Mailer was reckless with his talents. Now Joseph Mantegna has directed a documentary film, called ‘Norman Mailer: The American‘, which examines the life of the great novelist, journalist, film director, and actor and promises to reveal the man behind these multiple lives, with unseen footage, and interviews from his wives, his children, his lovers, his enemies.
When Martin Amis unflatteringly compared Mailer and his legacy to the ruins of Ozymandias‘ two vast and trunkless legs of stone, languishing in the desert, Amis failed to appreciate how Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s poem had made the great King immortal. Mailer’s life and books don’t need a Shelley, but it’s certainly about time someone assessed the great man’s life and work, and thankfully it looks like Joseph Mantegna has stepped up to the plate.