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Of a Fire on the Moon
Norman Mailer
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Of a Fire on the Moon

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  578 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Paperback, 480 pages
Published November 1st 1985 by Grove/Atlantic (first published January 1st 1970)
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3.80  · 
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 ·  578 ratings  ·  74 reviews

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Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I've had no involvement with Norman Mailer though I'm aware of his name. I got this on a whim as the blurb made it seem exactly the kind of book I'd like. I sometimes wonder if my generation will ever have anything to equal the universal heights of the Moon landings. 9/11 probably comes closest yet that was a negative event (and I actually missed it as it happened - I was flying to Italy and didn't find out until the next day and didn't get to watch the coverage for another few days). Anyway.

I v
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On topic, off topic, Mailer is a literary live wire. This is much more than sheer reportage, it's rumination, philosophy, history, egomania, and stylistic pyrotechnics. Sometimes, Mailer goes so far afield that you wonder if he will ever return to the topic. But even in these digressions, he's brilliant, provocative, and sometimes even wise. It's a roller coaster ride.

Do not come to this book simply for history. Come to it to be involved in the mind of Mailer as much as the Apollo project.
Stephen Curran
A mammoth task described in a mammoth tome written by a mammoth ego. Part One is a personal account of Norman Mailer's time at Cape Kennedy during the launch of Apollo 11, written as it happened: history seen from the vantage point of press enclosures, pool parties and hotel rooms. Part Two goes back to the beginning again for an exhaustive, 272 page long, almost moment-by-moment summary of the mission itself: a mixture of reportage, engineering and philosophy. Then in Part Three, the author aga ...more
John Defrog
Jul 22, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
I read Mailer just once before (Barbary Shore) and wasn’t very impressed, but a lot of people said that was a bad starting point for Mailer, and then I came across this book – his coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landings – and thought I’d give him another try. After 50 pages, I’ve had enough. Mailer’s prose is so flowery and self-absorbed that it detracts away from the actual subject matter. It doesn’t help that he insists on referring to himself in the third person (the better to explore at leng ...more
Mark Noble
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some thoughts upon rereading Norman Mailer’s, Of a Fire on the Moon.

I graduated high school in June of 1969. I barely remember my graduation day, but I will never forget the evening of July 20, 1969, watching TV at a friend’s house on a hot and sticky night in Northern New Jersey when, at 10:18 pm, six hours after touching down on the surface, Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module, Eagle, and set foot on the moon. This was the culmination of a goal set by US president John F. Kennedy in
Lark Benobi
Mailer's account of Apollo 11 begins with the death of Ernest Hemingway. It ends with his unsettling realization that he is about to divorce his wife. In between is an ambitious, scary, daring, edge-of-bombastic, utterly unexpected and urgent blast of prose that taught me more about the moon launch and that year and those times than any book I've read before. Mailer is always trying to get past the obvious thought. His power to observe and his ability to see significance in the smallest gesture ...more
Jul 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Wow, this is an awful book. Norman Mailer's head is stuck so far up his own arse that the only way he could have watched the launch of Apollo 11 must have been through his own open mouth. If you're interested in what he has to say about Apollo 11, I recommend starting at page 160. He does very occasionally mention things to do with it prior to that, but only as a sort of blurry watercolour background to his own turgid philosophical musings.

I confess it: I gave up on Of A Fire On The Moon at page
Aug 25, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Never have I ever sighed with relief that the book is finally over before this. Partly it might be due to the clunky translation, but mostly it is the vapid pseudophilosophical musings of the author. It is evident that he was not enjoying himself writing this. He was out of his element, writing about technology. Clearly he was self-aware enough, so he decided to go meta, and make the book just about that - the alienness of NASA and spaceflight. However, even in this pose, the text just appears o ...more
Mark Dooner
Jun 08, 2015 rated it did not like it
Like wading through sticky mud.Overegged in nearly every paragraph.Rarely engaged me even though the subject matter is one of my interests.
The book only comes to life in the description of the pre launch excitement of the thousands who lined the roads of Florida and the portraits of the astronauts.The scientific minutiae of the rocket side of things is way too boring, and some paragraphs just go on and on.Journalistic novelese which doesn't work on either level.Of its time but no penguin classic
Jun 08, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Invoking the 80 page rule. Mailer writes himself into this one, referring to himself as "Aquarius" the whole time. He spends the first 60 pages over-explaining press conferences and philosophizing on the manhood of astronauts. I did not want to find out what else he had in store.

If you are interested in a book about the moon adventure check out this one. Way more reader friendly.
Jul 14, 2009 marked it as to-read
I'm sorry, Norman. There were some genuinely incredible passages here, that kind of impassioned logorrhea that I associate with guys like Philip Roth or John Updike when they wax grandiose about American life. But I got lost about 170 pages in with all the pseudo-philosophy about the distinctions between "the Novelist and the Navigator." I couldn't make heads or tails of it, nor could I see why I belonged in a book about the Apollo 11 mission.
Nick Black
utterly brilliant, though utterly unreadable at times. some of the most interesting writing about the apollo program for sure, and better than tom wolfe's the right stuff. i could have done with less of norman's grandstanding, though.
Hundreds of informative, beautiful, and awe-inspiring photographs from the NASA Apollo program (bringing back many fond memories) paired with the effusive, overworked and at times pungent writing of Norman Mailer. I give the photos five stars, but Mailer only one or, perhaps, two. Unlike a fine wine, his style of writing with nearly unhinged drama and emotion, at least in this case, did not age well.

Only an egotist like Norman Mailer could write (in real time reportage) about the first men to w
Brandon Forsyth
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, it's taken me literally all year to read this book, but it's definitely been worth it. What's really interesting with this book is that it is basically two different ideas mashed together; one, a gorgeous pictorial look at the journey of APOLLO 11 and all the amazing, brilliant technology that helped humanity reach the moon; and the second, a selection of text from Norman Mailer's OF A FIRE ON THE MOON, which is a reflective, searing, psychological study of why we went there and what it me ...more
Chaunceton Bird
An absolutely wonderful book. But, let me be more specific.

First, the actual text of the book is three stars at best. Norman Mailer does little to hide his jealousy of the astronauts, and repeatedly degrades NASA and its agents for their logical attitude and technical communication style. As if, for some reason, the absence of communicated emotion was proof that Norman Mailer (or some other artist) should have been included on the flight manifest. This strange tone polluted an otherwise informat
Ray Johns
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Notes on reading Norman Mailer's , " Of a Fire on the Moon." Yes,he had come to believe by the end of this long summer that probably we had to explore into outer space ,for technology had penetrated the modern mind to such depth that voyages in space might have become the last way to discover the metaphysical pits of that world of technique which choked the pores of modern consciousness--yes,we might have to go out into space until the mystery of new discovery would force us to regard the world ...more
May 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: science-studies types, young people nostalgic for the unremembered culture wars, new-journalism fans
"Culture was insulation against a single idea, and America was like a rawboned lover gangling into middle age, still looking for its mission."

Norman Mailer is my new favorite prose master.

I love it when people talk big and saucy about America, and I loved this book.

(Incidentally, it's all about the first moon landing.)
Emily Bragg
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm quite curious what I would have thought of it if I wasn't an engineer. Interesting, although bizarre at points and less structured than any nonfiction I've read before.
Feb 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
This is an underwhelming book. It is more about Mailer's ego than about the Moon mission.
Milo Adkison
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think I now see what gonzo journalism is about. This book opens with Mailer focusing on himself (referred to in the third person) and the suicide of Hemingway. He talks about his difficulty relating to the NASA people, particularly the astronauts, implying that his literature/arts/hedonistic culture can't comprehend techno-man and the world they've created (this approach was done less well in the Reagan biography Dutch, whose author also could not find a way to get any insight into Reagan the ...more
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read a few informative, entertaining yet straightforward accounts of the Apollo program, so to read something more philosophical, more poetic, and more focused made a nice addition. More focused in the sense that in a lot of text, it covers a period mere weeks before Apollo 11 launches, to splashdown back on earth. Being a contemporary account, as well, colours it in a way impossible to writers looking back. This is Mailer reacting to Apollo, as much as it is Apollo, and reacting at the tim ...more
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant for stretches; tedious for others. Mailer got an enormous advance and then, he admits, struggled to know how to cover an event orchestrated by engineers perhaps more machine than human, an event press-managed to within an inch of its life, an event with "no smell" for the journalist's nose to twitch at.

The parts without excess technical detail or musings on god and the devil and which might lie behind any success or failure of the mission are great: Mailer describing the astronauts and
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of the prose was so convoluted and hard to follow sometimes that it was like I was lost in a maze, but I did appreciate the narrative of attempting to fictionalize a non-fiction historical event. More than a few lines stood out to me, but what really made this book were the pictures. They were gorgeous and it’s fascinating to know that this all happened, they were all real images taken in the age of the space race. I love the moon. I will always love the moon. I think Norman Mailer captured ...more
Erik Weber
The Taschen edition I read, with wonderful shots provided by NASA, was the saving grace for such a bloated, aggravating text. Though parts provided insight, the majority was Norman Mailer chewing too long on the flavorless 1960s bubblegum of his brain. Contrived depth produced shallow boredom. The good, in the end, was outweighed by the unbearable. After splashdown I just skipped through the pictures and captions to the back cover. Very thankful for the spectacular NASA photographs in this editi ...more
T P Kennedy
A beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated books. The photographs alone are worth the purchase price. However, it's the writing that jar. There's too much Norman Mailer in this and too little Apollo 11. Some of his speculation about the personality of the astronauts are amusing but his reflections on the state of his marriage and the tacking on at the end of a faux philosophical analysis are jarring and annoying.
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like many other reviewers here, I'd never read Mailer before, though knew of his reputation. I picked this up on whim thinking it looked like the most interesting thing in a public library that felt full of pulp.

Unfortunately, in all honesty it was a struggle. As others have commented, it is dense while. Mailer is off on his own philosophical paths. But I admired the commitment to the task and the immense detail that the book contains.
Kerry Evans
Jun 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: space, history
This is a very difficult book to rate - on the one hand the pictures documenting the journey to and from the moon are fantastic, but on the other Mailer's over-flowery self-obsessed text makes the book a very difficult read and not one for the faint-hearted. He adds very little of value to the story of the trip to the moon.

I doubt I will ever read anything else by him after reading this. There are also one or two racial references that date the book and jar to the modern reader.
Daniel Wrench
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastically detailed account of the Apollo 11 moon mission - both technical and philosophical. People talk about what might have been produced were NASA to send an artist or poet to the moon, but this book shows that in fact they did, vicariously. Mailer does not hold back trying to find the meaning behind it all, detailing how the voyage affected him personally, as well as how it may have affected the consciousness of man and the American Wasp.
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part historical account, part survey of the zeitgeist, part early Apollo myth-making, Mailer's "Of a Fire on the Moon" is presented here in a glossy, chunky edition full of crisp historical photographs that pair well with Mailer's contemplative, wide-ranging prose. There's probably as much Mailer here as there is Apollo but what's the point in art if you can't recognise the artist?
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great .....

... writing, astute observations, nuanced descriptions, but Norman Mailer’s vanity is often unendurable.
By often putting himself in the middle as a yardstick it shows how irrelevant he is; that is his (correct) feeling, but PLEASE .... no need to let me know over and over.
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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.
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