Lipton’s Journal/January 24, 1955/217

From Project Mailer

To begin with, one of the great divisions of personality occurred to me last night, and that is, one can divide people generally into takers and givers. Naturally there is an infinity of variations in the duality, and the giver always has his counterpart within himself of the taker, but it is best described by mentioning people. I am essentially a giver and not a taker which is why so many people see me as a bully. Adele[1] is on the surface a taker rather than a giver—except in sex—but that is truly a defense against her great desires to give which would flood her away. Danny[2] is a taker not a giver, so is Malaquais.[3] Devlin[4] a giver. My mother is a giver—like me she cannot take, neither advice, nor presents, nor even in a funny way, love—she must give, give, give. Bob[5] is one of those rare people who is both a giver and a taker—primarily a giver, but he can also take which accounts for his healthiness. Larry [Alson] and Barbara [Alson] are takers, my father is a taker.[6]

Generally, givers are “generous,” bullying, dominating, somewhat overbearing, anxious, guilty, lively, self-pitying, compassionate, and apparently open. Takers are secretive, private, hold strong opinions, often sensitive—especially on what they receive—sly, greedy, subtle, envious, superior in their own eyes, passive, and just as the giver feels anxiety when it is a question of receiving, so the taker has great anxiety about giving.

All performing artists are almost pure givers. People with a relaxed tweedy wit are takers. Givers tend to be sloppy or loud in their dress (the sloppy dresser and the loud dresser are the same thing)—takers are invariably neat. Givers express the masculine creative-destroying principle, takers the feminine conserving-principle. The irony is that givers open other people to their souls but takers are essentially closer to their souls. (Dave Kessler is a giver, Anne Kessler is a taker.)[7] Susy[8] worries me because while she is both a giver and a taker both are generally suppressed, and people who suppress both are in for a rocky road. Givers and takers always reveal themselves over things like picking up a check. Whenever I am threatened or have suffered some disaster I pick up every check in sight.


  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. A Polish Jew (real name Vladimir Malacki) whose parents perished in the Holocaust, Jean Malaquais (1909-98) was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. Mailer has often said that Malaquais influenced him intellectually more than anyone else. They met in Paris in 1947 and became close friends a year later when Malaquais was translating The Naked and the Dead into French. Malaquais and his first wife Galy lived with the Mailers when they spent a year in Hollywood, 1949-50. During their time together, Malaquais, who wrote several novels, informally tutored Mailer on leftist thought and the history of the Russian Revolution. See Mailer’s “My Friend, Jean Malaquais,” an introduction to Malaquais’s 1954 novel, The Joker, rpt., Pieces and Pontifications.
  4. An impecunious leftist writer who lived in the rooming house at 20 Remsen Street in Brooklyn where Mailer had a studio and wrote the bulk of The Naked and the Dead (1948). Mailer was grateful for his help in editing Naked and said so in the novel’s acknowledgments. Their letters often contained insults, but their friendship persisted. Devlin was the physical model for McLeod in Barbary Shore (1951).
  5. 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.
  6. Mailer’s sister, Barbara Mailer Wasserman (b. 1927) was married to Larry Alson (1920-2016), a writer and editor, from 1950-1962.
  7. David Kessler (1889-1960), a candy manufacturer, was married to Mailer’s father’s sister, Anne (1889-1958). The Kesslers were fond of Mailer and helped with his college expenses. Advertisements for Myself is dedicated to them.
  8. Susan Mailer, the only child of Mailer and his first wife Beatrice Silverman, and the oldest of his nine children, was born in Hollywood, August 28, 1949.