Lipton’s Journal/February 22, 1955/698

From Project Mailer

Ideas and thought. Where Bob Lindner[1] is wrong about the novel is that he doesn’t understand the peculiar communicating power of the novel. The novel goes from writer’s-thought to reader’s-thought by the use of an oblique (obliging) symbol, expression, or montage. It does not enter the more paralyzing process, more accurately limiting process, of converting thought to idea in order that the receiver can then try to let the idea enter in order that he take thought.

Which is why I cannot write a novel when I know what I want to say. It comes out too thin, too ideated. My best scenes are the ones where I didn’t know what I was doing when I did it. Few artists have ever been able to work on the thought-idea-thought interchange. And their weakness was often there, as Gide for instance. I must always tackle the novels I do not understand. Which is why Lipton’s has stripped me of my next ten years of books. The ideas here would have come out obliquely in the books I blundered through. Now I have to take an enormous step, and my capacities may not be equal to it.

Still, I don’t regret the too-quick opening, the great take of these past few months. I had to, for my health, and besides one should always try for more, not less. That’s the only real health.


  1. A prominent Baltimore psychoanalyst and writer, Robert Lindner (1914 – 1956) became acquainted with Mailer after reading Lindner’s 1952 sharp critique of current psychoanalytic practice, Prescription for Rebellion (1952), published by Mailer’s publisher, Rinehart. The letter, which contained both praise and criticism for Lindner’s ideas, led to a close friendship over the next four years, including many visits and the sharing of work, including Lipton’s. See extended note on entry 56.