Norman Mailer: Important Dates

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Norman Mailer, 2006

Norman Kingsley Mailer (January 31, 1923 – November 10, 2007) was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, playwright, film-maker, political activist, and public intellectual. Mailer came to prominence with the publication of his 1948 novel The Naked and the Dead. His career spans the latter half of the twentieth-century, and his outspoken opinions and ideas were heard on almost every major television talk show and in every major magazine worldwide. He published over forty books in his lifetime, and even helped to pioneer New Journalism in the sixties: a new way to perceive the unique events of the era, weaving conventional reporting with fictional techniques. While he published in almost every literary genre, he was also a well-known public intellectual and a would-be politician who held controversial opinions about women, sex, violence, power, technology, and writing. Mailer tried his hand at journalism, film-making, biography, playwriting, sports reporting, and he participated in hundreds of rallies, interviews, protests, and debates that helped shape American culture of the twentieth century.

Born in Long Branch, New Jersey in 1923 to Jewish immigrant parents, Mailer grew up in Brooklyn. He graduated from Harvard in 1943, where he studied engineering, and entered the U.S. Army soon after. He served as a rifleman and cook in the Pacific theater from 1944–46, and attended the Sorbonne in Paris following the war. A co-founder of The Village Voice in 1955, Mailer also wrote for Life, Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper's, Partisan Review, Paris Review, and Vanity Fair, as well as many counterculture and underground publications.

Mailer is the only major American author to have bestsellers in six consecutive decades. Some of his major novels are: The Deer Park (1955), An American Dream (1965), Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967), Ancient Evenings (1983), and Harlot's Ghost (1991). In 1969, his nonfiction narrative The Armies of the Night won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and Mailer ran for the mayor of New York City. Mailer won his second Pulitzer in 1979 for The Executioner's Song.

For the last 33 years of his life, Mailer lived in Brooklyn, NY, and Provincetown, MA, with his wife Norris Church Mailer. He was married six times and fathered nine children.

The following is an overview of important events in Mailer's life.[1]

1928 Born January 31, Long Branch, New Jersey, son of Isaac Barnett Mailer (who emigrated from South Africa via London after World War I) and Fanny (Schneider) Mailer.
1937 Family moves to the Eastern Parkway section of Brooklyn.
1939 Enters Harvard to study aeronautical engineering, after schooling at P.S. 161 and Boys' High School, Brooklyn; becomes interested in writing. ("All through December 1939 and January 1940 I was discovering modern American literature."[2])
1941 Wins Story magazine’s annual college contest with “The Greatest Thing in the World”; on Harvard Advocate, the undergraduate literary magazine; writing stories influenced by Hemingway; writes his first novel (No Percentage, about Jewish life in Brooklyn) during the summer (unpublished — Mailer stated: “It was just terrible”[3]).
1943 Graduates from Harvard, writes A Transit to Narcissus based on experiences working at a state hospital in Boston during the summer of 1942 (Transit published in an edition of 1,000 copies by Howard Fertig, N.Y., 1978).
1944 Novella, "A Calculus at Heaven," printed in Edwin Seaver's Cross-Section; marrles Beatrice Silverman; inducted into the U.S. Army, serves with the 112th Calvary out of San Antonio, Texas.
1944-1946 Overseas for eighteen months in Leyte, Luzon, and with occupation forces in Japan; field artillery surveyor, clerk, interpreter of aerial photographs, rifleman, and cook.
1946 Discharged (May); begins The Naked and the Dead in the summer, finishing it fifteen months later.
1948 The Naked and the Dead published on May 8; travels in Europe, studies at the Sorbonne under the GI Bill; meets Jean Malaquais in Paris; returns to United States in time to campaign for the election of Henry Wallace; writes articles for the New York Post and delivers speeches on the subject of academic freedom for the National Council of the Arts, Sciences and Professions; NAD on bestseller list through most of 1948.
1949 Speaks at the Waldorf Peace Conference; soon after, breaks with Progressive Party; begins, researches, and drops a novel about labor unions; in Hollywood during the summer, working on an original screenplay for Samuel Goldwyn (who rejects it but offers $15,000 for the "idea", which Nailer refuses to sell); also at work on Barbary Shore ("I think it reflected the impact of Hollywood on me in some subterranean fashion"[4]); first child, Susan, born.
1950 Continues work on Barbary Shore in N.Y., Provincetown, Mass. and Putney, Vt.
1951 Barbary Shore published spring; reviews are unfavorable.
1952 Divorced from Beatrice Silverman.
1953 Becomes a contributing editor on Dissent (remains until 1961).
1954 Marries Adele Morales, Rinehart breaks contract on The Deer Park over "six not very explicit lines about the sex of an­ old producer and a call girl";[5] after being rejected by six publishers, the manuscript is accepted by G. P. Putnam.
1955 Founds and names The Village Voice (with Daniel Wolf and Edwin Fancher); The Deer Park is published in the fall and sells fairly well.
1956 Writes a column for the Voice (January–May); "The Man Who Studied Yoga" published in New Short Novels II by Ballantine.
1957 Birth of his second daughter, Danielle; "The White Negro" appears in Dissent.
1959 Advertisements for Myself published in November; third daughter born, Elizabeth Anne (Betsy).
1960 Receives a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters; attends the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles; "Superman Comes to the Supermarket" appears in Esquire three weeks before the election; on November 19, after a party celebrating his intention to run for Mayor of New York on the Existentialist ticket, Mailer stabs his wife, Adele Morales, with a penknife; receives a suspended sentence for third degree assault and placed on probation when she refuses to press charges; under observation in Bellevue hospital for seventeen days.
1962 Deaths for Ladies (and Other Disasters) published; writing a column for Esquire, "The Big Bite," November 1962–December 1963; and another, "Responses and Reactions," for Commentary, semi-monthly from December 1962–October 1963; divorced from Adele Morales; marries Lady Jeanne Campbell, daughter of the Duke of Argyll, granddaughter of Lord Beaverbrook; Lady Campbell gives birth to his fourth daughter, Kate.
1963 The Presidential Papers published in November (originally titled The Devil Revisited); divorced from Lady Jeanne Campbell; marries an actress, Beverly Bentley.
1964 An American Dream appears serially in Esquire January–August; birth of his first son, Michael Burks. Interview with Steven Marcus, "The Art of Fiction XXII: Norman Mailer," published in The Paris Review (Winter–Spring, 1964).
1965 An American Dream published (revised) as a book in March; reviews are mixed, sales good; Vietnam Day speech at Berkeley (May 25).
1966 Cannibals and Christians published in August; birth of his second son, Stephen McLeod.
1967 His dramatic adaptation of The Deer Park opens at the Theatre de Lys, New York, January 31, closes May 21; Why Are We in Vietnam? published in September; produces and performs a film, Wild 90, participates March on the Pentagon (October 21); arrested and released (October 22) on his own recognizance after being sentenced to thirty days (twenty-five suspended); elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Also published in 1967: The Deer Park: A Play, The Short Fiction of Norman Mailer and The Bullfight.
1968 "The Steps of the Pentagon" appears in Harper's (March) and "The Battle of the Pentagon" in Commentary (April); covers both political conventions for Harper's; release of his film Beyond the Law (filmed 1967) about detectives and suspects; Armies of the Night published on May 8, exactly 20 years after Naked; Miami and the Siege of Chicago published in the late fall. Films third movie, Maidstone, and publishes The Idol and the Octopus (on Kennedy and Johnson administrations).
1969 Receives the National Book Award (Arts and Letters division) and shares the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction for The Armies of Night; campaigns unsuccessfully in New York mayoral primaries on a secessionist ticket proposing that New York City be made the fifty-first state; covers the moon shot for Life; Running Against the Machine, ed. Peter Manso, and Managing Mailer by Joe Flaherty (both on N.Y. mayoralty) published.
1970 After appealing the disorderly conduct conviction (for his part in the 1967 Pentagon demonstration) to the Supreme Court, Mailer serves out the two remaining days of his sentence; publication of Of a Fire on the Moon in early 1970. King of the Hill (on Muhammed Ali published in Life, paperback and later in Existential Errands; Little Brown becomes his publisher.
1971 The Prisoner of Sex published; Maidstone opens in New York and is later published in a paperback edition, with an introductory essay by the author; birth of his fifth daughter, Maggie Alexandra, to Carol Stevens; reading performance on December 6 of D. J., play based on Why Are We in Vietnam?
1972 Existential Errands published in Aprll; covers political conventions and publishes St. George and the Godfather in early fall; Mailer's father dies.
1973 Holds 50th birthday celebration and introduces "Fifth Estate" concept; Mailer envisioned an organization that would be led by the people to track the activities of government organizations.[6] Receives Macdowell Colony Award; Marilyn: A Biography published in the summer.
1974 The Faith of Graffiti published in early spring.
1975 Expanded version of Marilyn published in March; The Fight published in July.
1976 Work continues on "Little Egypt" novel; 150,000 words completed by October, 1976. Genius and Lust published in the fall.
1977 Begins work on book about Gary Gilmore.
1978 A Transit to Narcissus published in early spring; work continues on Gary Gilmore book; eighth child, John Buffalo, born to Barbara Norris-Church.
1979 The Executioner's Song published in the fall.
1980 Receives Pulitzer Prize for The Executioner's Song in fiction category, divorced from Beverly Bently; 400,000 words of "Little Egypt" novel completed; book on elegance, as told by Marilyn Monroe, planned for late fall publication; "Little Egypt" novel tentatively planned for publication the following year.
1981 Impressed with his writing, Mailer writes the introduction to Jack Henry Abbott's In the Belly of the Beast and helps earn him parole. Abbott stabs Richard Adan to death; Mailer is attacked by the media for his role in the ordeal.
1982 Pieces and Pontifications, his fifth miscellany, published in June; The Executioner's Song, a TV movie directed by Larry Schiller, written by Mailer, and starring Tommy Lee Jones, airs in November.
1983 Ancient Evenings published in April to mixed reviews; moves from Little, Brown to Random House where he remains for the rest of his writing career; purchases 627 Commercial Street, Provincetown, a home where he spends equal time with his one on Brooklyn.
1984 Tough Guys Don't Dance published in August and sells over a million paperback copies; elected president of the PEN American Center in July; inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in December; begins work on Harlot's Ghost.
1985 Mailer's mother dies in August.
1986 Presides over the PEN International Congress in January, attended by over a thousand international writers; stages "Strawhead," a play adapted from Of Women and Their Elegance, at the Actors Studio with Kate Mailer playing Marilyn Monroe; directs his own film script based on Tough Guys Don't Dance in Provincetown.
1987 Tough Guys screened at Cannes and released in September to mixed reviews.
1989 Receives the Emerson-Thoreau Medal for distinguished achievement in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in October.
1991 Harlot's Ghost published in October.
1992 Publishes account of the Republican Convention in New Republic; begins six months of research with Larry Schiller in the KGB archives in Minsk on Lee Harvey Oswald, providing the basis of Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery.
1995 Oswald's Tale published in May; Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man: An Interpretive Biography published in October, receiving poor reviews, mostly from art critics.
1996 Covers political conventions in the summer for George, followed by Dole's and Clinton's in the fall.
1997 The Gospel According to the Son published in September to mixed reviews.
1998 The Time of Our Time published fifty years to the day after The Naked and the Dead; the publication party also celebrated Mailer's 75th birthday.
1999 Publishes memories of Paris, 1947-48, in The Paris Review; begins research on a novel about Hitler.
2000 Begins writing Hitler novel, The Castle in the Forest; Norris diagnosed with intestinal cancer and begins treatment; Mailer also begins suffering from various ailments.



  1. Based on a handout by J. Michael Lennon; additional entries added by Gerald R. Lucas.
  2. Mailer 1959, p. 27.
  3. Marcus 1988, p. 79.
  4. Marcus 1988, p. 81.
  5. Mailer 1959, p. 229.
  6. Lennon 2013, p. 460.


  • Lennon, J. Michael (2013). Norman Mailer: A Double Life. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 1439150214.
  • Mailer, Norman (1959). Advertisements for Myself. Cambridge: Harvard UP. ISBN 9780674005907.
  • Marcus, Steven (1988) [1964]. "Norman Mailer: An Interview". In Lennon, J. Michael. Conversations with Norman Mailer. Jackson and London: U of Mississippi P.