Lipton’s Journal/February 1, 1955/400

From Project Mailer

To finish note 390 on my weekend. I came home, Adele[1] wanted to go to the movies, I wanted to stay home and have Lipton’s. She accepted. First we made love, then took Lipton’s. (I was repelled a little by how I had abused the act of love the night before by using it for fuckanalysis-with-Lipton’s, so I wanted to do without it.) After love-making which was a touch flat for us, we took Lipton’s—(by God, I call it Lipton’s because my lip delivers tons of words)—and merely felt passive, dopey, and flat. First time that had happened, and I realized the reason. When there is sexual energy in me, Lipton’s makes me creative. It floods my intelligence with sexual energy. But when I am temporarily sexually depleted, Lipton’s merely fuddles me. Which would account for why Dan[2] always sinks into a semi-coma when he takes Lipton’s. His sexual energy is forever low because he must use it to maintain the intolerable contradictions of his personality.

Anyway, we lay around, watched television which was mildly pleasant but not stimulating in the insights it gave me as it usually is, and then just as we were about to go to bed at eleven, I felt energy returning, and we took Lipton’s again. This time I was full of energy—my sexual energy seems to take about two hours to return—and I got out the tape recorder, and Adele and I had an uproarious half-hour making a mock Tex and Jinx program, a Break the Bloody Bank program with the Sixty-Nine Dollar question, and so forth.[3] I gave my Brando imitations.[4] (Listening to them the following night, I found Waterfront and Streetcar disappointing, but The Wild One was extraordinary.) Then Seconal[5] and to happy bed and sleep.

Yesterday, once I got going, I worked with incredible energy and speed. I believe that for work Lipton’s followed by Seconal is ideal albeit over-stimulated. The reason: I would guess that when I take Lipton’s alone, I spend the night with my S working like mad to destroy everything H has liberated, so I wake up depressed and stunned. But when I add Seconal—which seems to quiet both H and S, but certainly S—long before Lipton’s I had noticed the feeling of well-being Seconal gave me the following day, provided I hadn’t been taking it too often—when I add Seconal, the S is unable to criticize all through the night, and H remains alive if resting, so that black coffee in the morning stimulates the H with just enough S discipline to keep it from being totally unruly. The result: elation, work, and a feeling of inexhaustible energy. Even when I get tired after hours of writing, I have only to allow myself the relaxation of thinking, “I will rest for a while,” and the thought itself seems to provide enough rest for me to continue.

(Which opens a half-wild speculation to the thought that concepts rule our energy output. Crudely: to believe we are tired is to make ourselves tired; to believe we cannot sleep is to render sleep impossible; to believe we will rest is to provide the restoration of rest—all this of course finally ruled by the actual bodily overall need, so that even the insomniac finally sleeps, and the tireless man rests, the inert man moves. But, someday soon perhaps I may be able to liberate myself from the tyranny of needing eight hours sleep to do a day’s work.)

Anyway, yesterday was incredible for output if not for quality. I wrote more pages than I have ever written in my life, except perhaps for one night when I was eighteen and wrote something like forty absolutely awful last pages of a novel.[6] Then, since it was my birthday I went over to my mother and father’s, and because I was in a good mood, I put everybody else in a good mood. I enjoyed my birthday for the first time in years, I enjoyed my presents, I loved everybody there more than I normally do, and I tickled pink when my father told me that he had won six bucks from Jack Alson[7] in gin rummy. My father had never won a game before from Jack. (Jack is the sort of pompous cigar-smoking hearty self-made business man with buried aggressive sensitivity who has always buffaloed my father in the past.) I knew Dad was delighted, and I was delighted too—apparently the four hours we talked did a lot for him. He told me that he was fighting his office on the report they had made on him, and was preparing a letter where he was going to sock them back.

The whole evening went well. I enjoyed myself with my family which I haven’t experienced so well in years, and after supper I played the first attempt at the alphabet game, the results of which I will list here later. During supper Barbara and I had a big fight over whether the meat thermometer was right or wrong (meter as mentor?)—I saying, take the roast beef out, don’t trust the thermometer, Barbara in a fury at me. We were each half-right. The center was indeed too rare, but the outside was done well enough so that we all had slices and were able to eat. Reason was right theoretically—I felt that I was right practically—we ate a half hour earlier than we would otherwise have eaten, and nobody had a piece too rare for them. But the big thing was the basic argument Barbara and I were having. I made her a rationalist over the years—I took her sensitive delicate nature and hammered my harsh reasoning mind into hers. No wonder she’s furious at me now that I say Reason is bad, Instinct is good. She feels it, I suspect, as a betrayal. For what was her nature warped if I now tell her the warp is wrong?

Then we drove home with Larry and me playing endless fugues on his taking my old tape recorder for nothing. Larry is almost completely conscious of how completely he is the taker and how guilty it makes him, but he is still bound. He feels he always has to pay exact measure for taking—he is put in a rage (always expressed as depression for him) when he has to pay even a cent too much for what he buys, takes. “Spend money,” I said to him at one point about something else, “it’s good for the soul.” What a tzaddik[8] I am.

But on the drive, I said to Barbara my line about being a saint who must explore psychopathy, and she understood immediately. She said in her slow thoughtful voice, “You know, I think you’re right.” I wonder if the same is true for her, but deeply suppressed, so only the saint appears, and the sweet bourgeois college girl, all reason, all briskness, all pertness, while deep in her she always feels so unworthy and dirty, frightened by what she considers her evil impulses when actually they are not evil, they are the urges to explore her nature across the spectrum.

One addition to this. I have come to realize how much I am a leader. When I am depressed, I make others depressed. When I’m happy, people take on my mood, unless like Dan they are wrestling with me for their souls, or for Dan jabbing back. So I have a responsibility which I shun—that’s what keeps me from being a leader. For a leader must take in one fundamental way. He must take responsibility.


  1. Adele Morales (1925 – 2015), who he married in April 1954, was Mailer’s second wife. The mother of his daughters Danielle (b. 1957), and Elizabeth Anne (b. 1959), she separated from Mailer in early 1961 a few months after he stabbed her with a penknife, just missing her heart. He pled guilty to felonious assault and was given a suspended sentence. They divorced in 1962.
  2. A close friend of Mailer’s in the 1950s, Daniel Wolf (1915 – 1996), the co-founder of the Village Voice, introduced Mailer to his second wife, Adele Morales.
  3. John “Tex” McCrary (1910-2003) and Eugenia “Jinx” Falkenburg (1919-2003) were radio and television talk show hosts in the 1950s. Break the Bank was a television quiz show hosted by Bert Parks from 1948-1957.
  4. Mailer performed these for many years, drawing on the roles played by Marlon Brando (1924-2004) in three of his best films, On the Waterfront (1954), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), and The Wild One (1953).
  5. Brand name for Secobarbital sodium, a barbiturate used as a sedative and anticonvulsant. Mailer used this drug regularly in the early and middle 1950s.
  6. No Percentage, Mailer’s unpublished novel written in 1941 when he was a sophomore at Harvard, and set in Brooklyn and Long Branch, NJ.
  7. Father of Larry Alson, husband of Mailer’s sister, Barbara.
  8. A Hebrew term meaning a righteous or holy person.