Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer

It is impossible to conceive of postwar American letters without the bombastic, complicated, and at times volatile presence of Norman Mailer. Born on January 21, 1923, in Long Branch, New Jersey, he was raised in Brooklyn, New York. After serving in the Pacific during World War II, he wrote the novel The Naked and the Dead, which instantly launched the twenty-five-year-old Mailer to literary stardom. One of the few writers to be the subject of two Paris Review Writers at Work interviews, Mailer was the author of more than thirty books of fiction and nonfiction, including The Armies of the Night (1968), which won him the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; The Executioner’s Song (1979), which won him his second Pulitzer Prize; and the influential 1957 essay “The White Negro,” which explored the notion of the postwar hipster. Though known for his support of liberal causes—he even went so far as to launch a (failed) New York City mayoral run in 1969—Mailer’s gender politics have long been criticized, oftentimes bringing him head-to-head with feminist critics. His second wife, Adele Morales, describes in her memoir, The Last Party: Scenes From My Life with Norman Mailer, a 1960 incident in which Mailer stabbed her. Mailer remains one of the most controversial literary figures of the twentieth century.

Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, Wikimedia Commons


The Paris Review Sketchbook

The Paris Review Eagle, or “the bird” as it was referred to, was designed by William Pène du Bois, the magazine’s art editor, in the spring of 1952. The symbolism is not difficult: an American eagle is carrying a pen: the French association is denoted by the helmet the bird is wearing—actually a Phrygian hat originally given a slave on his freedom in ancient times and which subsequently became the liberty cap or bonnet rouge worn by the French Revolutionists of the 19th Century.