The Time of Our Time

Mailer, Norman

Published by Random House, 1998
ISBN 10: 0375500979 / ISBN 13: 9780375500978
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Synopsis: Norman Mailer's The Time of Our Time is a giant retrospective, a rich, boisterous portrait of our times seen through the fiction and reportage of one of America's greatest writers.

Mailer selected and edited the contents of this work to create an ongoing narrative of events large and small that have shaped America over the last fifty years.  Included are passages from The Naked and the Dead, The Deer Park, An American Dream, The Armies of the Night, The Executioner's Song, Ancient Evenings, and Harlot's Ghost as well as portraits of Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Truman Capote, JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Lee Harvey Oswald, Madonna, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon as they appeared in some of his best magazine pieces.  How readable is the result!  It is as if one is being drawn into a fabulous novel with extraordinary characters, real and fictional, who appear and reappear through the years until a vast mural of America as a nation comes into focus, full of follies and blunders, surprisingly elegant and often crazy--tragic in its losses and large in its triumphs.

On display here are Mailer's enormous energies, his vast curiosity, and his powers of delineation.  Here too are his errors of judgment and deed, both personal and literary.  As a writer, Mailer eschews all limits.  He goes at the world like a tiger.  What will surprise many readers of The Time of Our Time is what a shrewd and stylish tiger he has been.

Review: Compiling an anthology of one's own work can be a tricky business. Norman Mailer, of course, first committed this act of literary cannibalism back in 1959, when he assembled a brilliant collage of stories, journalism, essays, and poetry, Advertisements for Myself . Now, 50 years after the publication of his first novel, Gore Vidal's favorite sparring partner has put together another, more massive anthology, advertising not only himself but what we might call (paraphrasing Frost) his lover's quarrel with American life. "Over the course of years," Mailer writes in his foreword, "most of us compose in the privacy of our minds a social and cultural history of the years through which we have passed." True enough. But Mailer's history of the American Imperium has always been public--extremely public--and in The Time of Our Time he attempts to get it all into a single book.

Surely this sense of himself as the republic's recording angel accounts for the structure of Mailer's anthology: rather than arranging the excerpts by date of composition, he groups them by the historical era they describe. His 1963 polemic about the Bay of Pigs, for example, appears alongside his cloak-and-dagger reconstruction of the same event from Harlot's Ghost (1991). Fiction and fact lie cheek-by-jowl and eventually become impossible to tell apart. Here is the fulfillment of a project that Mailer began decades ago with such cunning hybrids as Armies of the Night. Yet this enormous volume shouldn't be read merely as a hand-tooled work of history. It is also the record of a phenomenal literary career, documenting Mailer's initial triumphs, his adrenaline-infused masterpieces of the late 1960s, hyperbolic stinkers like Marilyn and Ancient Evenings, and the astringent sorrow and awe of The Executioner's Song, which marked his return to form in 1979 after a long fallow period. Who but this loudmouthed, elegant, shrewd, and invariably excessive author would claim that his time--i.e., his accounting of it--is essentially our time? And who else could even begin to make such a claim stick? The list is a short one indeed.

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Time of Our Time
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Fine

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