Lipton’s Journal/December 1, 1954/8

From Project Mailer

In modern jazz,[1] one feels a key to aesthetics. Because modern jazz consists almost entirely of surprising one’s expectation, and it is in the degree, small or great, with which each successive expectation is startled, that the artistry lies. But modern jazz has risen to share the crisis of modern painting. It is a self-accelerating process for the audience’s expectations are changed almost nightly (that is, the tight critical yeast of the true aficionados) and so questions of “beauty” disappear before the dilemma—last night’s innovation is tomorrow’s banality. What is suggested is a movement across the arts, each of them engaging the other in order to find new startlings of old expectations until the arts blend, possibly in mathematics, the only art where the expectations of expectations of expectations, etc. can approach infinity.


  1. During the 1950s and 1960s, Mailer went to clubs in Greenwich Village and heard all the great jazz musicians: Miles Davis, Charlie Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Stitt, who became a friend. In both “Lipton’s” and “The White Negro,” jazz is linked with marijuana, sex and the lives of hipsters in the demimonde. Miles Davis, who had a long relationship with Mailer’s fourth wife Beverly Bentley (1930 – 2018), was a model for Shago Martin, the jazz singer in An American Dream (1965).