Norman Mailer…

was born on this date in 1923.

Mailer has not only published 39 books (including 11 novels), he has written plays (and staged them), screenplays (and directed and acted in them), poems (in The New Yorker and underground journals), and attempted every sort of narrative form, including some he invented. No record of “new journalism” is complete without mention of his 1960s Esquire columns, essays and political reportage. He has reported on six sets of political conventions (1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1992, 1996), participated in scores of symposia, appeared and debated hundreds of times on college campuses, boxed (and fought) in several venues and led a vigorous public life in New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts, his current home. His passions, feuds, imbroglios, litigations and loyalities are numerous, notorious and complex. Happily married for nearly a quarter of a century to Norris Church, he was wed five times previously and has nine children all told. A stalwart on radio and television talk shows, he may have been interviewed more times than any writer who has ever lived. Without being paid for his pains, he has given advice to several presidents, has run for office himself (mayor of New York), served as president of the American chapter of the writers organization, P.E.N., and won most of the major literary awards, but for the Nobel. Co-founder of The Village Voice, he also named it, and has been the equivalent of a decathalon athlete in the effort to break down barriers between popular, elite and underground publications. He has written for at least 75 different magazines and journals.

J. Michael Lennon, Professor of English, Wilkes University [for PBS, American Masters]