(1923 - 2007)
Norman Kingsley Mailer was born on January 31,
1923, in Long Branch, New
Jersey. When Mailer was four, his family moved
to Brooklyn, New
York, 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,
and is a former member of the Harvard Advocate.
In 1944, Mailer was drafted into the Army during 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
the war. It was named one of the “100 best novels” by the
In the following years,
Mailer continued to work in the field of
the novel. In the mid-1950s, he became increasingly
known for his countercultural essays, and
he was one of the founders of The
Village Voice in 1955. In 1957, Mailer
published his now infamous essay on hipsterism,
“The White Negro.”
As well as his fiction and non-fiction novels, Mailer
has produced a play version of The Deer Park, and in the late
sixties directed several films, including Maidstone (1970). In
1987, he directed a film version of his novel Tough Guys Don’t
A number of Mailer’s works, such as The Armies
of the Night, are political. He covered the Republican and Democratic
National Conventions in 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1992, and 1996. In 1967,
he was arrested for his involvement in anti-Vietnam demonstrations.
Two years later, he ran unsuccessfully as an independent for Mayor of
New York City.
His biographical subjects have included Pablo Picasso
and Lee Harvey Oswald. His 1986 off Broadway play Strawhead,
about Marilyn Monroe.
On the morning of November 10, 2007, Mailer died of acute renal failure, one month after undergoing lung surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, New York.
Sources: American Jewish Desk Reference; Wikipedia; Portrait of Norman Mailer, Library