Jason Epstein, March 25, 1965

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NORMAN MAILER’s Letters
142 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn 1, New York
March 25, 1965


Dear Jason,[1]

Your letter was fine, and I’m glad you wrote it to me, for it was clear as well, and so helps to explain why many people don’t like the book. I’ll not try to answer it here except to say that Rojack is neither mad nor sane, but in that extreme state of fatigue and emotional exhaustion where the senses are crystal clear and paranoia substitutes its vertical salience for the horizontal measure of daily reason, and everything takes place somewhere between a fever and a dream. If the action is big enough, one could even feel clear-headed and purposeful in the midst of all this. I think I may have made the error of not emphasizing this condition, of even not writing a small essay about what it was like. It is, after all, not insanity but an existential state, but I may have been wrong in assuming that people would recognize it as equivalent to some kind of a crisis in their own lives. Philip,[2] after all, and Stanley Hyman,[3] seem to give no sense at all of knowing what it is like to be on a three-day bat with something awful behind you and something fearful coming up. One thing is certain so far. This novel has not two bits worth of attraction for intellectuals, our kind of intellectuals, which leads me to suspect that it is either considerably better or considerably less good than I think it is.

Sincerely,
Norman
This page is part of
An American Dream Expanded.

Notes

  1. Epstein was the longtime editorial director at Random House, where he was Mailer’s editor after Mailer left Little, Brown for Random House in 1984. He is also a founder of the New York Review of Books and the Library of America.
  2. Philip Rahv, the literary critic, wrote his negative review for the 25 March 1965 issue of the New York Review of Books.
  3. Stanley Edgar Hyman wrote a negative review of An American Dream for The New Leader, appearing on 15 March 1965.