Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “An American Dream” as Want to Read:
An American Dream
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

An American Dream

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  2,601 Ratings  ·  195 Reviews
Stephen Rojack is a decorated war hero, a former Congressman, and a certified public intellectual with his own television show. He is also married to the very rich, very beautiful, and utterly amoral Deborah Caughlin Kelly. But one night, in the prime of his existence, he hears the moon talking to him on the terrace of a fashionable New York high-rise, and it is urging him ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 4th 1999 by Vintage (first published 1965)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about An American Dream, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about An American Dream

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Anthony Vacca
Oct 30, 2014 Anthony Vacca rated it it was ok
A mind-numbingly idiotic book that totes its title without the slightest hint of irony, Norman Mailer's An American Dream asks the most pertinent question of our times (i.e. the United States circa the early 1960's): What, oh what, is the tough, masculine white man to do in a world full of bitches and black men who may be more virile than he is? Really groundbreaking work here, Norm. This novel follows the adventures of a renowned TV personality who, having had a little too much to drink at a pa ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Serial Reading and Writing

I re-read this novel straight after “The Deer Park”, so I could compare two successive Mailer novels, even though ten years separated them.

“An American Dream” is a much more tightly structured novel. It’s not as discursive as “The Deer Park”. Instead, it’s divided into eight set pieces, which reflect the fact that it was originally designed and published as eight monthly installments in “Esquire” magazine in January to August, 1964. It was Mailer’s attempt to replicate
...more
brian
Sep 09, 2007 brian rated it it was ok
ah... mailer at his worst. throwaway prose, boring characters, obvious plotting and tired themes (amongst mailer's 'important' themes is the whole american masculinity/infantliazation thing that hemingway did with considerably more force and thought a few decades earlier). at his best, mailer is a god. at worst - as is evident here - he's not fit to write a cheap pulp novel.
Russell
Oct 12, 2007 Russell rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Phalluses
I'm not sure where to begin with this book. On the one hand, it's well written and rife with promiscuity, devious sex, murder and booze. All of which sort of kicks ass. On the other hand, Norman Mailer has succeeded in writing a story that actually made me wish there was LESS testosterone and more actual insight. (Yes I know that the beatniks didn't write to provide insight, they just wrote matter-of-fact-ly and made a mark by letting the readers find their own insight, but fuck that. The beatni ...more
Ben Loory
May 07, 2011 Ben Loory rated it really liked it
should be subtitled a book of smells. never read so many smells in my life. all of them bad. seriously, either mailer has the most sensitive nose on the planet, like a bloodhound-level smeller, or this is some really weird experimental thing where all the emotional interactions are couched in terms of theoretical odors given off by people on a second-to-second basis? does this exist? (i don't have much of a sense of smell, and after reading this, am very happy about it.)

anyway. yeah, so, this bo
...more
Michael
An utterly ridiculous, oftentimes despicable novel. Its greatest merit is that it is short. Offensive attitudes toward women (as is true of pretty much all of Mailer), toward the underclass, toward sex and violence, toward everything. Ugh. But compulsively readable. And, if its title is taken to mean anything, this violent, soft-porn soap opera of a novel is intended as a portrait of America's dream of itself in the mid-sixties, and its hero someone males of the time might secretly aspire to be. ...more
Nicole Gervasio
Jun 03, 2012 Nicole Gervasio rated it did not like it
I'm really sorry to say that I did not like this book at all. I've had it on my shelf for four years, and I was really excited to finally read a full-length work by the late, great Norman Mailer.

To cushion the review I'm about to give, let's just put some things into perspective (facts I myself only looked up after reading the book and seriously disliking it): this particular novel, his fourth, was actually initiated as a series of installments in Esquire magazine. Now that I know this, I'm som
...more
Vit Babenco
Feb 03, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Twenty five whores in the room next door, twenty five floors and I need more…” Sisters of MercyVision Thing.
If there is a dream then, according to the law of opposites, there should be a counterdream… Can reality be considered as a counterdream? Or is it paranoia?
Norman Mailer suggests a poisonous mixture of both.
“So I stood on the balcony by myself and stared at the moon which was full and very low. I had a moment then. For the moon spoke back to me. By which I do not mean that I heard voic
...more
Ted Burke
Mar 26, 2008 Ted Burke rated it it was amazing
Mailer's meditation on violence and evil will not be everyone's idea of a good novel to read on the beach, but An American Dream is a fully realized male fantasy wherein one set-upon, White, alcoholic , protagonist berserks himself into sequential delirium fueled rages to rid himself of the crushing banality of the culture that he feels is killing him by the inch. To do this, he commits a series of violent and insane acts, in an alcoholic haze; challenges sent him by the moon (really) whose succ ...more
Ugh
Sep 01, 2012 Ugh rated it it was amazing
A book that's hard to categorise and hard to quantify. It's like a modern Crime and Punishment, written by a possessed Ira Levin, maybe in collaboration with Nelson Algren. In essence the plot is simple, but whirling around the plot and enhancing it is a mad vortex of imagery and musings, on death, fate, sin, god and the devil, sex, power, money and magic. It's an intoxicating, at times breath-taking work. Parts of it no doubt went over my head, as sometimes almost entire paragraphs of mind-wand ...more
Katerina
"Знаете ли вы, что такое психоз?"
Лучше бы не знали.
Иногда кажется, что мужчинам все позволено. Их вариант "дамского" романа: секс, убийство, политика, снова секс, опять убийство, ЕЕ ДУША ПОХОЖА НА КОМОК ЧЕРВЕЙ!, политика, немного инцеста, я прозрел и познал любовь, она умерла, я уехал в степь.
Чуваки, это стыдно.
Нельзя, забыв о персонажах, сюжете и композиции, замешать в одну кучу войну, конгресс, JFK, пьянство, анальный секс, чувство вины и чернокожего джазмена, снабдить все метафорами жизни, см
...more
Carol Storm
Jan 31, 2014 Carol Storm rated it liked it
If you can stomach the brutal violence and the hysterical anti-woman diatribes, Mailer actually makes some pretty good points about racial, sexual, and cultural hypocrisy in America. And he writes soaring prose, which represents an enormous effort of will.

Matt
Mar 15, 2008 Matt rated it liked it

Searing, incantatory, manic, surreal, tawdry, wild, exhilerating, vivid, nightmarish, offensive, slightly demented....impressive!
Mo
May 02, 2007 Mo rated it did not like it
Shelves: schwing
Startlingly, this was on Playboy's 25 Sexiest Novels Ever Written list. The only thing less sexy to me than Norman Mailer's novels is Norman Mailer himself.
Joseph
Jan 07, 2013 Joseph rated it really liked it
A writing style that at first seems like a good easy read, but upon closer study, shows a unique voice in its rhythm and imagery. The story was simplistic, but at times quite engaging.
Reid
Part fantasy, part nightmare, and part expose of the ultimate American Dream, of the corruption at the pinnacle of power and high society. The novel, with its first chapter published in Esquire Magazine no more than two months after President Kennedy's assassination (and roughly a year after Marilyn Monroe's death), begins its very first paragraph with the narrator, Stephen Rojack, a newly elected congressman, detailing his double date with two beautiful young women and fellow congressman Jack K ...more
Baiocco
Oct 18, 2009 Baiocco rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Hmm...four stars. Not sure if that will hold up in court but I have to admit this book had all the odors of an awful pop-murder noir novel but Mailer's motivations to be AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL (both a writer and a renegade) forged this into a far more interesting, disturbing and enlightening territory. And seriuosly, Mailer is the most reckless of talents, as the cover so pointedly punctuates. The first two chapters of this contain some of the most reckless and dangerous prose confessions I've eve ...more
Rebecca Gransden
Dec 28, 2014 Rebecca Gransden rated it liked it
A tirade of unhinged masculinity, at times deliciously enjoyable, others a conundrum.

There is rot in the ostentatious world of the privileged: the moneyed autocrats who jostle for their perceived entitlements. Here, the will is king; outside of morality, of destination, of thought. There is some gloriously described psychopathic sex early on. Here Mailer runs rampant and with much relish decimates the female flesh. Steady on, Norman! Everything of note plotwise happens in a vomiting ejection at
...more
Kristie
Dec 05, 2013 Kristie rated it really liked it
The human capacity for violence and depravity is intertwined with the toxic effect certain people can have on one another. The result is a psychological thriller with complex themes. What effect does incest have on the victim over time? Does it increase their capacity for utter cruelty? Are we all capable of unspeakable acts of violence if pushed far enough? This book was met with great controversy when it was written. Mailer was not exactly known as Mr. Nice Guy and his reputation with women sh ...more
Andrew
Feb 02, 2011 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Norman Mailer I've read. It took me a short while to get into it, but once the character really kicks in then the book takes off at a fast and realistic pace. Stephen Rojack is surface-successful, but underneath burns disatisfaction and disgust. After impulsively killing his estranged wife, he is plunged into a couple of limbo days, where casual connections and the promise of a new love mix his emotions into a potential cocktail of sex and violence. The book blurb suggests thes ...more
Andrew
Jul 16, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it
My first reading of Mailer. At certain points, he appears to be channeling Nabokov in poetic execution and shock value. And also like Nabakov, he's unable to sustain this compelling vision for long preiods of time: the ending left something to be desired. I did, however, think it was a good read and found his hallucinatory writing to be both heady (chalk full of strange Freudian/jungian interplay) and capitvating in style. Also, the man is definitely moving in the same waters as Kerouac and Gins ...more
Alex
Nov 28, 2009 Alex rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Having read Mailer's The Fight - a great, evocative book that is occasionally spoilt only by the author becoming the protagonist - I wanted to read one of his novels to see if he created the same intensity.

And he does - sometimes. There are passages which grip you by the throat, there are others which you can't peel your eyes away from.

But ultimately the plot is stretched beyond credulity, characters come and go almost without explanation and certainly without reason, so the overall effect is ra
...more
TheGirlWithTheHeartShapedGlasses
Jan 26, 2015 TheGirlWithTheHeartShapedGlasses rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
It's is a disturing,very very problematic book which got me feel like the writer tries to impose his all racist,sexist and I dont know what else thoughts to you as others said and I didn't get actually what the writer wants to achieve by using such a poetic style for the nasty things.I mean Its the worst book Ive read after Clockwork orange.Its writing style kinda similar to Nabokov's but when you finish it,you dont feel like you've read a book worth reading.I get it,there is a criticism about s ...more
Grant Kanigan
Mar 12, 2014 Grant Kanigan rated it it was ok
Mailer is a transcendent writer, and challenged societal conventions in his day. While this book is beautifully written, (a PTSD flashback of war here is movingly and horrifyingly scripted), it's a prime example of a writer resting on his laurels. Violent, profane and banal, this is quite simply shock literature that was made a classic because of the sheer fact it challenged the limits of free speech in its day. There's not much here of substance; Mailer is a great writer - this is a terrible bo ...more
Andy
Aug 06, 2009 Andy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ryan O'Neal
A whack masterpiece of writing espousing some bizarro Mickey Spillane gone hipster prose that puts you in a Jack Daniels-fueled hammerlock of Cape Cod psychosis. I like the way the book started with a reference to JFK as the book was written shortly after his assassination. Everything in this book is nuts and by the laws of physics I shouldn't even like it but its so brain-fried it gives me a boner.
Barry
Sep 17, 2014 Barry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-misc
This book was thoroughly mediocre. Stretches of it were intriguing, but long stretches of it were meandering rambles that didn't seem to have much of a point. This book almost earned a three-star rating, for the intriguing parts were quite intriguing, but when an author stoops to using sex and the underbelly of high society to make things interesting, well, that just cheapens a novel and makes it feel like the author has given up on the book.
Patrick
Jun 07, 2010 Patrick rated it really liked it
p.151 "I could feel mysteries revolving into mysteries like galaxies forming themselves, and knew with some sort of defeated woe that I would never learn a tenth of what had really happened, not ever."
Talitha
Jun 09, 2008 Talitha rated it liked it
just started....i love his twisted characters. We all need a little unsettling fiction in our lives :) reminds us how 'normal' we really are. (have not picked this one back up in a while. I have been booked out with School books.
Beth Hall
Hypermasculinity, misogyny, and racism. It gets two stars for some pretty writing, though overall... Bullshit. Now to write a fucking essay on this asswash.
Michael
Feb 23, 2011 Michael rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • King Arthur's Death: The Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Alliterative Morte Arthure
  • The Lunatic at Large
  • Poems of the Night
  • Blu's Hanging
  • Diary of a Superfluous Man
  • A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy
  • Notebooks 1935-1942
  • Dessa Rose
  • The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire
  • The Sunlight Dialogues
  • The Day of Creation
  • The Other Bible
  • Three Plays: Desire Under the Elms / Strange Interlude / Mourning Becomes Electra
  • This Quiet Dust: And Other Writings
  • The Coast of Utopia (Box Set)
  • The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain: New Poems
  • Loon Lake
  • Behind My Eyes [With CD]
7927
Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.

Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, and Tom Wolfe, Mailer is considered an innovator of creative nonfiction, a genre sometimes called New Journalism, but which covers the essay to the nonfiction novel. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize twice and the National Book Award once.
...more
More about Norman Mailer...

Share This Book



“Love was love, one could find it with anyone, one could find it anywhere. It was just that you could never keep it. Not unless you were ready to die for it.” 10 likes
“That was how the tears went down Cherry's face...a teaspoon full of ten years' sorrow.” 7 likes
More quotes…