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An American Dream

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  3,175 ratings  ·  234 reviews
In this wild battering ram of a novel, which was originally published to vast controversy in 1965, Norman Mailer creates a character who might be a fictional precursor of the philosopher-killer he would later profile in The Executioner’s Song. As Stephen Rojack, a decorated war hero and former congressman who murders his wife in a fashionable New York City high-rise, runs ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published 1999 by Vintage (first published 1965)
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Average rating 3.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,175 ratings  ·  234 reviews


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Anthony Vacca
Oct 08, 2014 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 ...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 08, 2007 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.
Ben Loory
May 07, 2011 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
...more
Russell
Jul 30, 2007 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 ...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
Carol Storm
Jan 31, 2014 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. He knows how to write tough cops and the sordid underbelly of big city America. And he writes soaring prose, which represents an enormous effort of will.

Oh, and not that it makes the book any better, but if you're a fan of MAD MEN, it's easy to picture Jon Hamm as Rojack, January Jones as Deborah, and Christina
...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 14, 2013 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
...more
Nicole Gervasio
Jun 03, 2012 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
...more
Shankar
Jul 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Not sure how or what to review in this book. Except that the writing style just kept me going to the end.

The story is manic. The hero does everything in a span of 24 hours - kills his wife ( from who he is separated) makes out with his maid. Finds a girlfriend in a bar and makes out with her ( and also gives her a child ... not sure how one can know just after the event ). Tricks the police and gets away from suspicion of killing his wife. And so on. Not likely to be believable at all. But this
...more
Ted Burke
Mar 26, 2008 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 ...more
Czarny Pies
Jan 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Czarny by: Everyone. In the 1960s and 1970s he was huge.
Norman Mailer wrote a lot of bad books including this one in which he is at his self-centred and misogynist worst. The Naked and the Dead is a good enough book but there is little to be gained from going too far into the Mailer catalogue.
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 ...more
Ugh
Aug 31, 2012 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 ...more
Joseph
Jan 07, 2013 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.
Rebecca Gransden
Aug 16, 2014 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
Andrew
Jan 11, 2011 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 ...more
Grant Kanigan
Mar 12, 2014 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 ...more
Andy
Aug 06, 2009 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.
Mo
May 02, 2007 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.
Matt
Mar 15, 2008 rated it liked it

Searing, incantatory, manic, surreal, tawdry, wild, exhilerating, vivid, nightmarish, offensive, slightly demented....impressive!
Donald Trump (Parody)
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You know I was a little doubtful about reading a book by a guy named Norman but boy I'm glad I did. He really went above and beyond. What a beautiful story. There's a lot of you (LADIES) who could learn valuable lessons from a book like this. This is a real story about a guy who's under a lot of pressure, and things kind of get away from him, and one thing leads to another. He really can't be blamed, it's society you gotta blame for putting so much pressure on him. It's guys like this who I ...more
Kristie
Dec 05, 2013 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 ...more
Andrew Pisano
Dec 14, 2008 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 ...more
Alex
Nov 28, 2009 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
...more
TheGirlWithTheHeartShapedGlasses
Jan 03, 2014 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 ...more
Barry
Apr 09, 2014 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.
Talitha
Jan 25, 2008 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.
Patrick
May 25, 2010 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."
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.
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878 followers
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.
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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.” 14 likes
“That was how the tears went down Cherry's face...a teaspoon full of ten years' sorrow.” 9 likes
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