This is the age of the war of the sensitivities. As a seemingly superficial level it is the battle of Dissent vs. Partisan Review vs. Commentary; or Carson McCullers and Paul Bowles and Truman Capote vs. Jones and Early Mailer. On a larger scale it is the deep and furious warfare between first Freud, Adler, and Jung now between Freudians, Reichians, Horneyans, etc. On an historical scale it was the conflict of sensitivities (the deep conviction of each that he alone saw the nature of reality) which set off the individual and collective murders in the contest of Lenin vs. Trotsky; Trotsky vs. Stalin; Stalin vs. Hitler—and now with the Cold War—the war of sensitivities becomes keyed to its full.
- Mailer wrote for these three major literary-political journals, all dominated in the postwar period by Jewish intellectuals he knew personally. He was well aware of where their editorial policies did and did not overlap.
- A Southern gothic writer influenced by Faulkner, McCullers (1917-1967) memorably depicted eccentric and isolated characters in her novels, stories and plays. Mailer admired her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940).
- A novelist and music composer, Bowles (1910-1999) lived most of his adult life in Tangiers, where he hosted several Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs. The Sheltering Sky (1949) is his finest novel.
- Mailer and Capote (1924-1984) became friendly in the 1960s when they both lived in Brooklyn Heights. Later, they feuded about whether Mailer had sufficiently recognized Capote’s “nonfiction novel,” In Cold Blood (1966), as the progenitor of The Executioner’s Song (1979).
- The literary divide Mailer notes was first sketched out by Philip Rahv in a 1939 Kenyon Review essay, “Paleface vs. Redskin.” Henry James was the poster child for the palefaces and Mark Twain for the redskins. In Mailer’s mind, he moved closer to the palefaces after Naked.
- There is no way to describe here the complex struggles between and among Sigmund Freud (1865-1939), the father of psychoanalysis, and his erstwhile followers, Alfred Adler (1870-1937), Carl Jung (1875-1961), Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), and Karen Horney (1885-1952). Mailer was familiar with their writings.
- Mailer was also familiar with the writings of Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924), the head of communist Russia from 1917-1924, and his ally, Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), who was assassinated by Lenin’s successor, Joseph Stalin (1878-1953). These three Russians, and Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), are discussed endlessly by the occupants of Mailer’s rooming house cum debating club in Barbary Shore, and in his final novel, The Castle in the Forest (2007), a well-researched fictional recreation of Hitler’s early life. The preponderance of Mailer’s writing is situated beneath the overhang of the Cold War, most notably his 1991 novel of the C.I.A., Harlot’s Ghost.