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An American Dream

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  2,240 ratings  ·  171 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)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Anthony Vacca
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 Klappenskoff
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
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 3 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Ted Burke
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
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
matt

Searing, incantatory, manic, surreal, tawdry, wild, exhilerating, vivid, nightmarish, offensive, slightly demented....impressive!
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
Andrew
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
Carol Storm
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.

Andrew
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
Wilson
I read it and I liked it. Partially because I am still smarting from reading "That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana" and anything else seems like a welcome reprieve. There's some murder, some equating murder to knocking boots, and then some boot knocking to kick the book off right. And then after that, there's a whole lot of talk about stuff that stinks and how it stinks -- as in smells bad -- and that keeps me turning pages.
Andy
Aug 06, 2009 Andy rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
Talitha
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.
Rebecca
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
Michael
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ian Mapp
Second Norman Mailer that I have read. This is a challenge and gets a little confused towards the end but was worthwhile investment of time.

Written in 1965, it must have been the America Psycho of its time.

Stephen Roscak is a Congressmen and former war hero. His exploits on a hill in Italy in the war are retold and set the scene for what the man is. He kills four germans whilst storming a machine gun post.

Back in America - his career takes off and he marries a society beauty who it quickly becom
...more
Rebecca Johnson
With someone like Stephen Rojack, you don't need enemies. Rojack plagues the world with his existance, former Congressman, decorated war hero, and intellectually renouned talk show celebrity; Rojack is married to the rich and extraordinarily beautiful Deborah Caughlin Kelly. They both stumble through life, reaching for the closest person to hang on to-which, in their case, is rarely each other. Lonely and oppressed, they seem to be in a cycle of one upping each other in their escapades. Then, on ...more
Jon Lindsay Miles
The adjective muscular is often used about Mailer's writing, but this is fierce in its opening pages. He knows how to build a story, hit you with events and then draw back, reflect before building the story again.

A murderer tries to hide his guilt, which sounds a straightforward enough story, but along the way Mailer examines the nature of sex, of love and of the difference between the two. It's a dark world, the nastier side of life, but the human - inside and out - is what interests him - and
...more
Pierce
About a quarter in my general impression was: filthy and dark and well written.

After finishing it my general impression was: filthy and dark.

I read a Mailer before but don't have strong memories of it. So I don't really have a handle on his style yet. But overall this was heavily laden with metaphors, and I don't mean some grand over-arching metaphor of a plot, I mean every single blasted thing was compared to something else, often quite random. Similes everywhere. During particularly dense pass
...more
Baiocco
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
Dan
Jul 10, 2009 Dan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
Early in the novel, the protagonist kills his wife. After, he has sex with the maid, goes to a nightclub, has sex with a singer, goes to a conference with his producer, talks to his wife’s father, etc. He philosophizes about his situation, like a Raskolnikov (Crime and Punishment) or a Mersault (The Outsider). He does not think much about the possibility of arrest, and indeed there is little in the novel with regard to police investigation. Rather, in juxtaposing the violent action with which th ...more
Kristie
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
Sami Strate
Jul 15, 2008 Sami Strate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sami by: mike duncan
some things in this book i haven't really read in print before... resembling the scary sides of stuff and how you might turn that blind eye. i dont know, very drunken, n.m. forgives himself as much as his characters do his antihero but the thing winds up eerie and familiar and i thought it held up... and my grandma really did not like this book at all she thought it was trash!!!
dunno the dialogue is so silly sometimes but its like harkening back to this olfactory fear and power and i wound up f
...more
Justin
Alright, i think some editing is due here. I mean substantive editing concerning mailer's inability to separate his dream reality from the reality he writes. Maybe this is impossible. Maybe it is also impossible to stop mailer from simply writing about himself, or positioning himself as the most virile man on the block. but this book was full of him fucking and drinking as much as possible, with the intense intellectualism that comes from fucking and drinking. i have to hand it to him though, e ...more
Galicius
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex
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
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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...
The Naked and the Dead The Executioner's Song The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History The Fight The Castle in the Forest

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“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.” 7 likes
“Beneath a toilet water of punctilio and restraint...a deep smell came off Kelly, a hint of a big foul cat, carnal as the meat on a butcher's block, and something else, some whiff of the icy rot and iodine in a piece of marine nerve left to bleach on the sand. With it all was that congregated odor of the wealthy, a mood within the nose of face powder, of perfumes which leave the turpentine of a witch's curse, the taste of pennies in the mouth, a whiff of the tomb. It was all of Deborah for me.” 3 likes
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