Lipton’s Journal/December 29, 1954/85

From Project Mailer

Interpretations of present events once from our knowledge of how similar courses ended in the past. For example, knowing a man was a drunk, and died as a drunk, we say that drink is bad—but the bold spirit who drinks knows in some part of himself that the end, his end, is not known, and so he ventures ahead leaning on the private, the unique interpretation that human life is enormously various, and the end of his adventure may be different from the all the ends which befell other men like himself who went off on similar adventures. What he believes is that tragic ends do not necessarily follow his actions. (Which is why the fall of such men is always tragic, for the heart of human endeavor is buried here.) What I have drawn above is the psychology of the saint, the artist, the criminal, the mad perhaps, the athlete, the warrior, the revolutionary, the entertainer, the libertine, the drug addict, the gambler, the alcoholic, the demagogue, and all the other varieties of the adventurer, the explorer. What characterizes them is that they have the boldness to believe that they are truly unique, and will not necessarily be punished like others because the world is not finite, the sun does not inevitably come up each morning, their actions cannot be interpreted in advance by the statistical end because truly, for them, there is confidence that the end is unknown.

Also true of the victim (who is the optimist), the victim who believes that he or she is unique and so will not be impoverished by the drunkard, raped by the sadist, murdered by the murderer. The victim is the passive complement to the adventurer. My mother as victim, my father as adventurer.[1]

I, who have always been the adventurer (although enormously suppressed) have never been able to have love affairs with victims—they are too much like my mother. So I have searched out women who were adventurers—which is why virgins have never appealed to me. And all my affairs can be interpreted in this light. Those women who seemed adventurers but ended up in my mind as victims, I fled. Those women who were completely adventurers frightened me, as viz the Yipper.[2] Bea and I broke up because she became too much the independent adventurer and that was intolerable to both of us. Adele and I have the big one of our lives because Adele who is half-adventurer like me, has wedded her sense of adventure to mine, and consents to be the victim because she can thereby find the most adventure. So the longer we are together the deeper is our bond.


  1. Mailer’s mother, Fanny (1891-1985), the hard-working motor of the family, held down various jobs until she was in her 70s. His father, Isaac B. (“Barney”) (1892-1972), an accountant, was a secret and unrepentant gambler for all of his married life who was bailed out many times by family members. Mailer admired his rebellious secret life.
  2. An unknown reference.