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The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  2,275 Ratings  ·  168 Reviews
'The Armies of the Night is an award-winning nonfiction novel written by Norman Mailer. He essentially creates his own genre for the narrative, split into historicized & novelized accounts of the 10/1967 March on the Pentagon. His unique rendition of the nonfiction novel was one of only a few at the time & received the most critical attention. In Cold Blood ('65) b ...more
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Published December 1st 1968 by Signet (first published January 1st 1968)
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Ian "Marvin" Graye
A Novel History

This loosely "fictionalised" account of the 1967 anti-Vietnam war March on the Pentagon won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

While many of Mailer's political and philosophical concerns could be said to have dated (like much of Sixties culture), I really enjoyed re-reading it.

I suspect that many of my own views about Sixties politics (particularly the relationship between the Old Left and the New Left) were shaped by my first reading.

To that extent, it's had a la
Larry Bassett
Jul 09, 2012 Larry Bassett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Occasionally I have to pay homage to my roots. No. Not the Detroit suburbs or the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. To the 1960s where I spent what turns out to be my formative years.

In the past week I have read three Kindle mysteries that got my adrenalin pumping and my conscience thinking I had to do something better with my time. Part of the attraction was my new Kindle Paperwhite so I was feeling disloyal to old fashioned hard covers. Part of it was that I was burned out by serious classics th
Nov 07, 2007 gaby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mailer enthusiasts, 60's revisionists
Norman Mailer, Norman Mailer. I believe I will take a page from Mr. Christopher Hitchens, who did NOT have a problem blasting Jerry Falwell on national television while the corpse was still warm (, and make some honest yet unflattering remarks about Mailer, whose goodreads update feed currently shows him reading The Handbook for the Recently Deceased.

This book is kind of a 'literary' atrocity. It is everything I would expect from an overblown superfamous
May 12, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this nonfiction novel, Mailer depicts the Mailer character (the Mailer character should not be mistaken for the wilier flesh-and-blood Mailer) as a glowering, self-important drunk whose main objective is to marinate in whiskey and public adulation.

By Mailer's own admission, his attendance at the 1967 March on the Pentagon is a concession to his moral opposition to the Vietnam war, which he would rather practice in the company of fellow aesthetes at exclusive cocktail parties. Reluctantly, he
Dec 30, 2009 Shawna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me hate Norman Mailer. Really. I wished him dead after reading this book. And this after I had read and fallen in love with his book "Executioner's Song." This book is narcissism pure and simple, the fact that it won the National Book Award makes me question the validity of that award. After I read this book, I picked up the memoir written by Mailer's second wife Adele, the one he stabbed.(Yeah, did you know Mailer actually stabbed one of his wives? One gets the impression he want ...more

Brilliant. Immediate, vivid, engaging, fly-on-the-wall account of some serious world/historical shit hitting the american fan.

A classic, and deservedly so.

Interesting: Mailer said that he had been surprised when he came upon the refer-to-yourself-in-the-3rd-person voice that was the essential narrative innovation of the book.

He said that when he was a student at Harvard he'd been assigned "The Autobiography of Henry Adams" and thought the third person referential move was odd and put the boo
Laurel L. Perez
Mailer's writing style in this book is very fast and pulled me through the first section quickly. I can easily see how Mailer’s book has been compared to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which was the first non-fiction novel, whereas Mailer has created here an early example of historical and fictional journalism; which seems to combine novel style with reporting. The book reads as split between two sections, in "History As A Novel," Mailer uses the third person to describe his own experience parti ...more
Nov 24, 2010 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love this book - my favorite quote comes from it -- of the media (he was thinking mainly of the press, of course) --- as "silent assassins of the republic"
New Journalism (among a few other things) was about bringing the writer out front to share the footlights with the story, dressed up in the unselfconscious garb of literary style. Rather than dry facts, impressions. Rather than strict chronology, non-linear context and rat-a-tat punctuation.

Which makes this prime piece of New Journalism (Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner) curious, in that it's pure chronology in the first part (History as a Novel), an intricate and often painstaking
Logan Mahoney
Oct 22, 2014 Logan Mahoney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Washington’s scruffy Ambassador Theatre, normally a pad for psychedelic frolics, was the scene of an unscheduled scatological solo last week in support of an unscheduled scatological solo last week in support of the peace demonstrations”(Mailer 1). The start of Norman Mailer’s Magnum Opus, The Armies of the Night, is one of complete explanation of what happened the fateful afternoon of October 27th, 1967, the day the most important anti-war really occurred. This book not only is a prevalent acc ...more
Michael Steger
Nov 06, 2013 Michael Steger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic book. Anyone who wants to understand the fraught history of the Left in America has to include this wild, ironic, and visionary title on her or his reading list...

A few quotes:

On the change of mood in the hippie movement, over the course of the 1960s, from bright and happy, to dark and tormented:

“A generation of the American young had come along different from five previous generations of the middle class. The new generation believed in technology more than any before it, but the gen
Mar 13, 2016 Vlora rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Look, the fact that I wanted to throw this book against the wall on at least five separate occasions probably means it has some merit because at least it elicited some sort of emotion. I'm sure there are even some intelligent thoughts in here. I respect the fact that Mailer can create a character I dislike so much (himself). The descriptions of brutality towards the end were shocking, which is what they should be. Also, Mailer was on Gilmore Girls, so I really tried to like this.

All that consid
Jul 18, 2011 Bill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I read this book because it won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. I also thought that since Mailer was a novelist that this "History" might be more compelling than something written by a dry, academic historian. Well, I was very disappointed. Mailer's egomania is not nearly as charming or interesting as he believes it to be. For me, Mailer did not make a particularly good protagonist because I didn't really care for him and therefore was not all that concerned about what would happ ...more
Josh Fish
A record of Norman Mailer's involvement in the anti-Vietnam-war protests written by him in the third person about him. I found this book full of false modesty (he even uses the word modest when talking about himself. Who calls themselves modest?) and self aggrandizement. He describes himself as almost a superhero taking on the giant war machine. This attitude of great men fighting against tyranny is the same rhetoric used by warmongers which I thought was ironic and something it seems surely Mai ...more
Emerald Guildner
It was fine. There are some passages that I found funny and/or enlightening. Overall though, it felt a bit too much like a chore for me to finish. Maybe it was just not what I was in the mood for, most likely it had much to do with the fact that I needed to look up people and places every ten minutes. That's totally all my fault for being a bit dumb when it comes to history. I did learn quite a lot, which was in itself worth the read. However, I did not feel very "moved", in any way, and I found ...more
Jodi Lu
Aug 18, 2007 Jodi Lu rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: psychologists
the brief journey of an egomaniac who here just flaunts his lame-o remonstrance role (which he himself derides throughout, creatively). after he gets carted off to jail, the second half of the book really makes you miss the ass's cocky--albeit lively--presence. the style gets dry and you think "awww where's norman??" even though you wanted to hate him at many points when he was around. he gives you all or nothing, so it's kinda manipulative like that. you don't care about vietnam half as much as ...more
Given the lunatic self-importance of this book's first section (a third-person novel with the author as its hero) and some truly annoying prose tendencies (things in this book that are like other things are outnumbered by things that are "not unlike" other things by at least five to one, and Mailer has apparently never seen an authority figure that he couldn't best describe physically by assigning them a position on an American football team), the fact that "The Armies of Night" ends up being mo ...more
Erik Graff
Oct 10, 2009 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mailer fans, students of the 60s
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Although I can find no ready reference to it, I believe this book was published, perhaps in serialized form, in a magazine like Harpers or the Atlantic (both of which I subscribed to back then). In any case, I recall reading it in such a format while still in high school, when the Pentagon demonstration was still a fresh memory. It was, I believe, the first full-length book I'd ever read by Norman Mailer, an author familiar to me from parental and grandparental bookshelves.
May 22, 2008 Seán rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
#1 of 26: Very, very good.

New York Magazine's New York Canon
Stewart Ballif
Oct 13, 2016 Stewart Ballif rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are many reasons to like and dislike this book, first I am going to go through the reasons that I do like this book. The first reason I liked this book was because this book gave me a new perspective. A perspective on the way that some American citizens felt on the war in Vietnam, it is almost always good to know what people think of what you are doing. The second reason I liked this book was because it told me that many people will gather to promote their views, people will even get arres ...more
Oct 31, 2014 Kennedy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kennedy by: Course Literature: Creative Nonfiction
Pulitzer Prize winner, Norman Mailer. I’m reading through this book with much difficulty, straining to see the brilliance in it others have seen, and of course how it justifies its prize winning hype. Okay, it’s the same conundrum I faced in art school when they tried to convince me Jackson Pollock was an artistic genius. The very same! In fact, Mailer seems to be the Jackson Pollock of writing; the difference being instead throwing paint on canvas, he’s thrown words on a page.
After posing the q
Nov 28, 2016 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
More like 3.5 stars. I've got serious issues with Mailer as a writer, but there talent and insight comes through, despite it all. This account of the messy, teeming, and powerful 1967 March on the Pentagon is ultimately worth it.
J. D.
Feb 16, 2017 J. D. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Old news. Not interested.
Dony Grayman
Dec 25, 2016 Dony Grayman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lp
Edición española, Colección Panorama de narrativas #162.
Kent Winward
Jan 13, 2017 Kent Winward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book felt so incredibly timely. Mailer's political writing taps into the universal political themes like you would expect from a great novelist. The peaceful protest as war comparison was fantastic. The March on the Pentagon presages more marches that are planned for the coming weeks, but shows the strange bedfellows that make up the protesters. We are the Armies of the Night and it is pitch black and we don't even know who we are attacking.
Jamie VW
Jul 08, 2013 Jamie VW rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fascinating picture of a seminal moment in the early anti-war movement of the 1960s. But I actually would recommend it more to explore the structural problems of the New Left and as a way of understanding the slow turning radius that many of these radicals, including Norman Mailer, had to include broader understanding of race and class impact on mid-century war capitalism.

To begin with a comment on the writing style, the reader is forced to go through the struggle of take-off with
Jan 14, 2014 Suada rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: My dad , History teacher
Recommended to Suada by: /
Shelves: history, own
At first I thought to give only 2 stars for this book,
when I started reading I was like : urrgh..? What a weird guy is Mailer , he is writing about himself in third person, nonsense.
As usual I was taken in by Books' title "The Armies of the Night" ,sounds pretty awesome for my taste in books and it was cheap (yes ,it matters).

To begin with how it affected to me.
After reading 50 or more pages I had no idea what is it about, okay I realised that is about War in Vietnam , the USA in 1967 , but wh
Matt Simmons
Oct 24, 2011 Matt Simmons rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a profound, and what a profoundly frustrating, book. I had to force myself through the early parts, something I've gotten stuck on the couple of times when I've tried to read this book before. Mailer is a tremendous boor, and the fictionalized version of himself is even more so. Of course, Mailer himself is aware of this, and this makes the book both very enjoyable and deeply unpalatable. The standard postmodern disassociation of self is on full, eye-rolling, boring display here, though, st ...more
Richard Jespers
Almost fifty years after its publication, The Armies of the Night needs no summary. For that you can easily consult Web sources and get a take on its juxtaposition to similar literature of the time period. Nor need I comment much on the author's penchant for referring to himself in the third person. I merely thought it was about time I read some Mailer, and because this tome was recommended to me by friends, I selected Armies. It so clearly limns the times in which I lived as a youth who, except ...more
David Hewitt
Dec 28, 2011 David Hewitt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a lot to like and a lot to dislike about this book, but in the balance, its status as a great accomplishment in nonfiction is well earned. The "lot to dislike" all hovers around Mailer himself, who appears in the book as a novelized character, spoken of in the 3rd person, and as its protagonist, during the four days surrounding the March on the Pentagon in 1967. Mailer as character is in many ways unlikeable, but to his credit, he makes little attempt to hide his unlikeability--egomaniac ...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 about Norman Mailer...

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“His deepest detestation was often reserved for the nicest of liberal academics, as if their lives were his own life but a step escaped. Like the scent of the void which comes off the pages of a Xerox copy, so was he always depressed in such homes by their hint of oversecurity. If the republic was now managing to convert the citizenry to a plastic mass, ready to be attached to any manipulative gung ho, the author was ready to cast much of the blame for such success into the undernourished lap, the overpsychologized loins, of the liberal academic intelligentsia. They were of course politically opposed to the present programs and movements of the republic in Asian foreign policy, but this political difference seemed no more than a quarrel among engineers. Liberal academics had no root of a real war with technology land itself, no, in all likelihood, they were the natural managers of that future air-conditioned vault where the last of human life would still exist.” 3 likes
“Years ago in 1959 when Dellinger was already an editor on Liberation (then an anarchist-pacifist magazine, of worthy but not very readable articles in more or less vegetarian prose) Mailer had submitted a piece, after some solicitation, on the contrast between real obscenity in advertising, and alleged obscenity in four-letter words. The piece was no irreplaceable work of prose, and in fact was eventually inserted quietly into his book, Advertisements for Myself, but it created difficulty for the editorial board at Liberation, since there was a four-letter word he had used to make his point, the palpable four-letter word which signifies a woman’s most definitive organ: these editorial anarchists were decorous; they were ready to overthrow society and replace it with a communion of pacifistic men free of all laws, but they were not ready to print cunt.” 3 likes
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