Lipton’s Journal/January 20, 1955/201

From Project Mailer

When we run across something we don’t understand, and casually throw it out or ignore it, it is because we understand it much too well. This is true of all rejection.

As a corollary: What we erase is what we wish to emphasize. So the good writer crosses out the bad writing (the clichés) with which the ambitious part of his being had hoped to attract the public. Literary style is always the record of the war within a man.[1]


  1. Mailer expanded this metaphor in a long self-interview in Cannibals and Christians, “The Political Economy of Time,” where he says, “Form in general—now I let you in on the secret—is the record of a war.” He continues, saying that this war “reveals the balance of forces, discloses the style of the forces, it hints at the move from potential to the actual.” The lucubrations of this interview, and the one preceding it, “The Metaphysics of the Belly,” are a mature ramifying of the jottings in “Lipton’s.” See also Richard Poirier’s chapter, “The Minority Within,” in his seminal 1972 monograph, Norman Mailer.