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The Deer Park

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,113 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Amid the cactus wilds some two hudred miles from Hollywood lies a privileged oasis called Desert D'Or. It is a place for starlets and would-be starlets, directors, studio execs, and the well-groomed lowlifes who cater to them. And, as imagined by Norman Mailer in this blistering classic of 1950s Hollywood, Desert D'Or is a moral proving ground, where men and women discover ...more
Paperback, 398 pages
Published October 2nd 1997 by Abacus (first published 1955)
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Average rating 3.26  · 
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Ian "Marvin" Graye
Flaws and Applause

For all its flaws (and they are both numerous and substantial), "The Deer Park" is still one of my favourite novels of the 1950's.

It deals with two personal interests and obsessions: radical Left-wing politics in the United States from the 1930’s to the 1950’s (including the House Un-American Activities Committee) and Hollywood (the two of which coincided in the Hollywood Blacklist of 1947).

I should also mention that it deals with the relationship between the sexes in as
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up when I asked Ms. Lynch for American literature book suggestions, and was instantly hooked when I read the blurb, especially the phrase "...their uneasy flirtation with success and self-extinction creating a legendary portrait of America's machinery of desire." and how it linked back to the time when Mr. Errico talked about "The American Dream" in class. The thing that struck me the most about this book was how the human mind and actions react when living a lifestyle of an ...more
Jul 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
I read it a long time ago, it worked reasonably enough as a novel but there were way too many moments in which I felt stormin' norman's sweaty, heavy hands all over F Scott Fitzgerald's delicate and subversively limpid material.

This is coming off the sagging failure of "Barbary Shore" and Norm's trying to talk himself out of his gloom, paranoia, and wife-shanking by trying to tell himself he can "do" Hollywood. He can't. Not really. He gets the booze, a little bit of the desert, the
Dec 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Sum it up in one quote:
There is a no man's land between sex and love, and it alters in the night. We go to sleep convinced we are in one state, we awaken in the other, and murderous emotions patrol the ever-changing border.

Palm Springs(y) area of California [Desert D'Or] in the era of the House Un-American Activities Committee; sort of a classy but trashy refuge for the amoral Hollywood set to get out of town [the Capital] and do what those with no real personality, but plenty of money
Nov 18, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
It's quite rare that I don't finish a book. Usually, once I start reading something, I have a kind of compulsive urge to finish it, no matter how bad or how dull. Occasionally, however, there comes along a book that overpowers me with its banality and mediocrity, a tome that forces me to set it aside and move on.

The Deer Park, for me, is one such book. At the urging of a professor who is helping me with something I'm writing, I sought out a copy and started to read it. After all, I thought,
Nov 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: would-be artists, lovers, fighters, cheaters, drinkers
An exquisite portrait of the relations between pride and desire. Also a great commentary on the artist's condition and a reference point for the jaded, the morally corrupt, the promiscuous and the unsure.
Paul Gleason
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Deer Park was probably a better read when it was first published in 1955. Its exploration of sex and violence - and the way in which these two forces are at the heart of the "American Dream" - is fearless. It must have been very shocking back in 1955, before the world had been exposed to Burroughs and Selby, and Lady Chatterley and Tropic of Cancer were still banned.

The book is plotless because it has to be. Mailer creates a social milieu - Desert D'Or - which reminds one of Palm Springs,
A real teeth-gritter, this may be the longest 375-page novel I have ever read. And I am a Mailer fan.

The novel is initially somewhat interesting. It is set in a thinly disguised Palm Springs that is populated with characters out of early fifties Hollywood. These folks are coping with the fallout from House Un-American Activities hearings (most significantly a character who seems to be modeled on Elia Kazan); with having too much money and time and no real moral compass to guide them as they
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book was almost considered obscene when it was published, I would say that it is quite mild according to our contemporary tastes. Despite its beautiful language, I found the plot and organization a bit shoddy.
Feb 07, 2010 rated it did not like it
Basically a boring book by a very talented writer. At the beginning there are all of these Nick Carraway-esque opinions which is great, but after that nothing much happens. People have sex, people get depressed, depressed people have sex, sex makes people less depressed, people sell out, sell-outs have sex, sell-outs bail on their friends. And that is pretty much the book. Plot need not count for everything, but if your characters are bland and there is no digression then all you have left is ...more
Michal Mironov
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don’t give a shit about Hollywood at all, this subject has never fascinated me. But now, I must reluctantly admit, that this crafty bastard Mailer surely can write about any chosen topic. Hollywood included. Especially when it's that rough, greedy, and sexist Hollywood from the early '50s. And Mailer is great at digging in dirt. He shows the legendary „dream factory“ as a rotten, fake business full of psychopaths and manipulators. A business, that will grind and change everyone, regardless of ...more
Justin Tappan
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Some good writing here. Unfortunately you have to mine it from a plodding, dated narrative full of unlikeable characters. Maybe in the 50s the cliche of everyone involved in the film industry being varying degrees of self-obsessed and shitty was fresh. Today it just reads as an overused trope. Sense of setting, which is what I was looking for more of here, was virtually nonexistent. It may as well have been set in Boise, Idaho for the lack of a grounded setting. Seemed an excuse to put shallow ...more
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
What a surprise, Hollywood is a cesspit of the compromised and the corrupt. Except that this was both known and part of American mythos sine at least the 1921 and the Fatty Arbuckle murder scandal, not to mention the notoriety of Charlie Chaplin and Errol Flynn. So in Deer Park, The once and future great Norman Mailer uses the tell all expose to give us an almost literary take on the Tinseltown land Lotus Eaters. Not intended for the younger children. If it helps pretty boring for those old ...more
Sam Baber
Since I spent the past week in Palm Springs, I felt like it was a perfect time to plow through this tumescent mess. Many other writers have captured Southern California perfectly and maybe Mailer thought he had for the people who read this when it came out in 1955. Even though it includes the occasional bon mot worth remembering (“Even now she was very patriotic and like most patriots she felt strongly and thought weakly”), I struggled to make it to the end if only to remind myself that Mailer ...more
Ted Burke
Sep 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Mailer's third novel, The Deer Park, finds the author searching for a style suitable to his ambitions of being the literary genius who finally sets the world straight on matters of love, destiny, masculinity, sex, betrayal, all that good stuff.

Mailer failed with the ambition, of course, but we have to love him for trying to swing the bat so that it crack the loudest and result in the the ball not just leaving the park, but the planet as well. Many great books were written him, most of them a
Jun 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
Mailer's satiric take on the corruption and shallowness of post WWII Hollywood. Set in a fictionalized Palm Springs in the late '40s, it tells a story (his?) of an Air Force pilot just out of the war who winds up in the town to try to write a book and to decide what he wants to do with his life. He falls in with the Hollywood crowd that comes there frequently. The subject matter and the premise interest me. However, not much happens; none of the characters are likable; Mailer's writing style is ...more
Gordon Howard
Apr 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Could have been as good as The Great Gatsby, with which it has many similarities. But Mailer's ego got in the way - his narrator character doesn't stay in the background like Nick Carraway, and as a proxy for Mailer is very unbelievable. This also leads to problems with narrative continuity, as the novel switches from first person, to third person through the lens of the first person, to straight omniscient narrative. But the novel has great set pieces, such as a party near the beginning that ...more
Daniel Cunha
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book for its realistic, gritty yet almost loving and longing portrait of post-WWII hollywood in all its glamour, hyprocrisy, and ability to create and consume dreams and lives. Each character is facing life changing choices, temptations, corruption, in its most seducing - the way they meet them, and how they play off each other assuming different roles at every juncture is what caught me in this book. Great read.
Brian Fagan
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Keeping in the context that it was written in the mid-50s, the book is a fascinating curiosity for it's depiction of sex. Kind of like Peyton Place in Hollywood...with those red commie bastards. Great for any fans of Norman Mailer. You can see an author experimenting to find his voice. That's pretty much what the book is, an experiment.
Feb 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think you can tell the parts where Mailer was drunk when he was writing and when he was sober, because this has some remarkablly lucid and beautifully written character observations, but also some strangely opaque and convoluted passages that don't make a lot of sense.
Nicole Iovino
Feb 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
I'm glad I read this, because now I will never, ever feel obligated to read anything by Norman Mailer ever again.
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tomos Llywelyn Edwards
It starts off brilliantly as it is so good at conjuring images of that classic Hollywood atmosphere and a lot of the imagery, language and select passages are beautiful; there are one or two interesting characters and the plot threads that relate to moviemaking and the slippery individuals involved are the highlights of the book - when you just want to keep on reading.

But a lot of it is also quite dull, nonsensical and really quite full of itself, the main narrator is far from the most
Shawn C. Baker
From the first page I thought The Deer Park would end up being a novel I love for all-time, a real 5 Star deal. Not the case. While I did very much enjoy this novel, the one major problem I have with it, which really doesn’t become an overbearing issue until the last fifty pages or so, is the fact that Mailer makes one of the characters the omnipotent narrator. Now, I know this is done under the guise that we are reading a novel that character wrote after the events, but the final scene, where ...more
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me by my fiancé, and I'm seriously concerned about his reasons. Does he like all those pathetic female characters that faun and fall? Does he like the male posturing of the ego? Does he like all that social commentary that strings the character decimation together so utterly pathetically. That Mailer throws in anti-semitism, McCarthyism, misogony, pathos, isn't the mark of genius, just of an era. I keep hoping for some redemption for the poor emigrant, some ...more
Michael Shuman
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't look for a Hollywood expose' but Mailer's take on that atmosphere of pretense mixed with real life and real emotions set in a Desert suburb of a fictional LA called "The Capital. There are a few endearing characters that will stay with you for a long time.

Don't look for a Hollywood expose' but Mailer's take on that atmosphere of pretense mixed with real life and real emotions set in a Desert suburb of a fictional LA called "The Capital. There are a few endearing characters that will stay
Cyn Cooley
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This one was a little slow-going for me so it took me longer than usual to finish. I understand the criticisms of this book, particularly against the standard to which folks generally hold Mailer but I would also say that for it's time this book must have been a complete and utter scandal and rather daring. The story meanders at times but generally speaking, I am always reasonably invested in the main character's well-being (in as much as anyone is a main character here). Despite the valid ...more
Nico Battersby
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Morals and values are sacrificed to the unholy Gods of opulence and lust. We're all very witty with our quick quips and references to Freud, but in the end we're all the same little worms scrounging around in the same little mud pit, trying to make sense of it all. In the end, we all just want a slice of the pie and a place at the adult's table. But once we get there, we wonder, was it all worth it?
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Some interesting themes explored such as McCarthyism, sexual exploitation in Hollywood is relevant etc but not as interesting as it thinks it is. Misanthropy is not necessarily insight. None of the characters really lived for me other than as unpleasant two dimensional people I'd avoid spending time with in the unlikely event we crossed paths. Feels like I spent too much time with them and Norman for now.
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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.
“The essence of spirit, he thought to himself, was to choose the thing which did not better one's position but made it more perilous. That was why the world he knew was poor, for it insisted morality and caution were identical.” 5 likes
“There was that law of life, so cruel and so just, that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same.” 4 likes
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