gaby's Reviews > The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History

The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer
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's review
Jan 09, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction, new-journalism
Recommended for: Mailer enthusiasts, 60's revisionists
Read in December, 2007

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 ego, and nothing that I would expect should win the goddamned National Book Award AND the Pulitzer!!

Two hundred and fifty pages of Mailer on Mailer. Wherein Mailer discusses Mailer in the third person ("and then Mailer had his 15th drink ..."), his wives, favoritism for his sons over his daughters, a few flip remarks about Vietnam, a brief and annotated lattice-like history of the civil rights movement and key players, and much self-congratulatory aggrandizement about the cool NY literary parties of which his attendance was (at least in his eyes) all but mandatory.


For fear that this book wasn't a fair representation of the man/myth, I'm now reading The Executioner's Song. I was dreading it, because 1050 pages of Mailer on Mailer would be too much for me to bear. BUT, it is great so far. It is clearly Mailer's fuck you to Capote's In Cold Blood. It is 1050 pages to Capote's 250, and follows a similar journalistic arc - the everyman American psychokiller, his arrest, trial, and death. I'm only 200 pages in, but I do bet Capote felt a bit upstaged. . . And, 200 pages in, I've encountered not even a back-handed reference to Mailer!

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message 1: by Michael (new)

Michael If you still come to this site, Gaby, I agree with your comments on Executioner. I read it shortly after it came out, and I remember being impressed and moved by the book. Not a Mailer fan in any other way, myself, I suspect your comments about Armies of the Night are dead-on.

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