An American Dream Expanded/Credits

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An American Dream Expanded Bibliography Letters Timeline Word Count Comparison Credits  

This project was constructed by Gerald Lucas (Editor) and the graduate student editors of NMAC 5108: Roger C. Byrd, Sandy Callaway, Jennifer Huynh, Dana McGonagill, Miriam Qureshi, Sherita Sims-Jones, Matthew Smith, Josef Vice, and Rian Williams. Original documents, including his 2004 book Norman Mailer’s Letters on An American Dream, 1963–1969, were generously supplied by J. Michael Lennon. Dana Casper provided Wiki and research support.

Acknowledgments and Appreciations for the Project Mailer Version

During the spring semester of 2019, my graduate course, NMAC 5108 Writing and Publishing in Digital Environments, helped publish this Digital Humanities project.[1] Builders of “An American Dream Expanded collected, edited, and posted artifacts from the years surrounding the publications of Norman Mailer’s 1965 novel An American Dream. The major artifact and primary focus of our work was the 2004 collection Norman Mailer’s Letters on An American Dream, 1963–1969, edited by Mailer’s official biographer J. Michael Lennon.

Acting as editor, I gave students an overall format and organization, and they translated the book into a digital document using MediaWiki — the same software used by Wikipedia. This involved posting each letter (75 in all); editing, annotating, and linking each; formatting the overall project; and making the digital book work with the rest of the web site. In addition to the letters, students posted other documents and images that had to do with the publication and reception of An American Dream, like full-text scholarly essays and reviews, advertisements, various book covers, and other snippets that give insight into Mailer’s artistic and logistical processes.

One of the challenges of such a project is that there is no established format for a digital book — if that term is even germane for a project such as this. While this endeavor is certainly as scholarly and challenging as publishing a book, it adds the additional hurdle of presenting the information in such a what that it takes advantage of the the platform in a logical way that both utilizes the platform's strengths and mitigates the hurdles of access. I think the students have done a great job: it certainly helps that it looks like Wikipedia — a platform that most of us are used to using with greater frequency.

While this work is challenging, it is ultimately very rewarding. Several of the students, while overwhelmed at first with the twin tasks of learning the nuances of the wiki language and translating paper artifacts into a cohesive digital project, all were able to offer substantial additions to the project — most going above and beyond the class requirements to make AAD Expanded as strong, as useful, and as elegant as it could be. I am both proud and pleased of their collaborative commitment and effort to improve the quality of Project Mailer. As an educator in the digital age, I think this is exactly the kind of knowledge-building projects that much of higher education should emphasize, as it provides crucial digital literacies, promotes the continued importance of the Humanities, and allows students to realize the validity of their contributions as professionals.

I’d like to offer deepest appreciations to Mike Lennon for his indefatigable support and enthusiasm for An American Dream Expanded. He has been an inspiration and an endless source of knowledge and resources: it’s from him that most of the original material for this project came from. He once called Mailer Proteus; if that’s true, then Mike’s some sort of Mailerian muse: a fount and guarantor of all things Mailer. I, too, would like to thank Maggie McKinley for her support as the president of the Norman Mailer Society and all of our endeavors here. Dana Casper, the graduate librarian at Middle Georgia State University, offered her support and guidance to me and the class, and Wiki Education also provided training and other resources for new editors.

The work of my students has been stellar, especially Sandy Callaway, Dana McGonagill, Miriam Qureshi, Sherita Sims-Jones, and Josef Vice. Their efforts were consistent, enthusiastic, and went well beyond the class requirements. They are examples of just how a collaborative project should be accomplished, evidenced throughout the talk pages. While tentative at first, all of them adopted the Wikipedia mantra to “be bold” in their edits, and when needed, they asked questions, discussed their approaches, and came to a consensus. Based on their work here and on Wikipedia, I am confident that all of them grew from wiki neophytes to competent editors over the course of the last two months. This project would not have been the same without them.

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Dedication[2]

For Donna, Stephen, Joseph and James.

With a Special Appreciation to the students of English 397, Norman Mailer Seminar, at Wilkes University: Helene Caprari, Monica Cardenas, Justin D'Angelo, Patricia Dibble, Katherine Green, Mark James, Marcia McGann, Sabrina McLaughlin, Jessica Skutack and Gregory Specter.

Acknowledgements and Appreciations for the Letters

My first debt is to Norman Mailer, who gave full access to his Archive and generously supported the preparation of this edition. He has also read his letters collected here, provided countless details for the head notes and introduction, and corrected many errors of fact and interpretation. I am deeply grateful for his help and friendship. The ten students of my English 397 Norman Mailer seminar at Wilkes University made major contributions. During the spring 2003 semester they helped select the letters and gave extra time on weekends for this work. In addition, members of the seminar key stroked the manuscript, proofread the result and did supplementary research on the historical period, the novel’s background and reception and Mailer’s correspondents. Seminar members also compared the two versions of the novel in various ways, which was of great help in evaluating the changes Mailer made when he revised it for book publication. They also helped me (especially Marcia McGann) organize and re-file the letters from the mid-sixties in a systematic way. The seminar also provided great encouragement and engaged me in regular dialogue about the problems, large and small, encountered in preparing this edition. I am happy to express my gratitude to Helene Caprari, Monica Cardenas, Justin D’Angelo, Patricia Dibble, Katherine Green, Mark James, Marcia McGann, Sabrina McLaughlin, Jessica Skutack and Gregory Specter. Jacqueline Mosher, Humanities Division secretary at Wilkes, also deserves applause for her above-and-beyond support.

About twenty years ago Hershel Parker compared the two versions of the novel and published his conclusions in Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons (Northwestern University Press 1983). His essay, and a copy of his working papers donated to the Archive, was quite useful and stimulated important discussions in class. While I do not agree with Parker that the Esquire version is the better, there would seem to be some substance to his general argument that subsequent authorial or editorial changes to the first published version of a text may significantly damage its creative integrity. Mailer was also impressed with Parker’s painstaking comparison, but told the New York Times, “I think the Dial version is the better. The publisher preferred to print the Esquire serial, but I devoted four months to revising it for the book.”[3]

Several colleagues and friends read drafts ofthe text, making invaluable contributions. First among these is Robert F. Lucid, Mailer’s authorized biographer, whose familiarity with the materials surrounding the novel and rich knowledge of Mailer’s life helped me at every turn. His assertion of the importance of Mailer’s summer 1963 cross-country drive to Las Vegas was of particular value. Barbara Wasserman provided regular encouragement and a great deal of background information on the Mailer family and the events of the early 1960s; she also proofread the manuscript with an eagle eye. Darin Fields, my Dean at Wilkes University, gave me strong encouragement and advice at the outset and, as then-chair of the Humanities Division, approved the Mailer seminar where much of the work was accomplished. Thomas Fiske, Mailer collector and enthusiast, also read the manuscript, noting errors and providing encouragement, as did Jack Scovil, former colleague of Scott Meredith. Monica Cardenas and Sabrina McLaughlin made many useful suggestions when they proofread the manuscript (and regularly discussed the shape of this edition with me); Mark James did a thorough analysis of the Esquire and Dial versions, including a final word count of each chapter. Mailer scholar Barry H. Leeds has generously read the final manuscript and made several thoughtful suggestions. Stephen Borkowski, Provincetown neighbor, has been of great assistance on this project, generating advance subscription sales, reading the manuscript, listening, cheering and advising from start to finish. He also introduced me to Peter Madden who graciously assisted in locating a binder for the edition. Peter Lennon has supported my work on Mailer for decades, providing good advice and many obscure documents. Joseph Lennon did a careful review of the introduction and was an inspiration to me as I compiled the index. Christopher Busa, Publisher of Provincetown Arts, has also been a stalwart advisor and source of encouragement. His magazine will publish nine letters from this edition in the magazine’s annual issue, published in July 2004. Finally, Professor Harold E. Cox of Wilkes University has freely given his time and counsel on complex production problems. To all those, named and unnamed, who have assisted, my thanks. The errors that remain are solely my responsibility.

The Eugene S. Farley Library at Wilkes University provided support for this project during the spring semester of 2003 when the Mailer seminar met in the Norman Mailer Room on the Library’s first floor. Thanks to Brian Sacolic and Heidi Selecky for arranging for this support. I would also like to thank the Faculty Development Committee of Wilkes University for providing a summer 2002 research grant, which enabled me to undertake preliminary work on the project in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Mr. Mailer’s permanent home since the mid-1980s. The Faculty Development Committee and Wilkes University also supported my participation in the April 2003 American Literature Association Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts where I delivered a paper on the letters published here. I would also like to acknowledge the encouragement of Jay Parini, the editor of the recently published Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature. I have borrowed a few paragraphs from my literary biography of Mailer in volume three of this massive reference work and reworked them for this introduction.

Finally I would like to thank my wife, Donna Pedro Lennon, for her unstinting help and encouragement on matters technological, editorial, and psychological. Her support has been crucial. No one has done more to make this volume a reality.

This page is part of
An American Dream Expanded.

Notes

  1. See Brooks, A. (April 25, 2019). "MGA Graduate Students Publish Digital Humanities Project About Norman Mailer". Inside MGA. Middle Georgia State University. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
  2. Dedication and Acknowledgements by J. Michael Lennon from the original book publication, 2004.
  3. Mailer, quoted in Herbert Mitgang’s article, “On the Scholarly Trail of the New Revisionists,” New York Times, 10 February 1983, C-22.