Lipton’s Journal/January 24, 1955/225

From Project Mailer

My character. I have always been a philosopher masquerading as a novelist because philosophy was not a proper expression of our time. It had become the province of takers—scholars—academicians. Cut another way I am the boy sent out by God to do a man’s job, the saint who must explore psychopathy. For the sociostatic principle protects itself in times of danger by trying to choose the man least fit to do the job (when it is a question of a human whose total life movement is rebellious, anti-social, essentially homeostatic).

So I who was one of the worst soldiers ever to go into an Army, one of the people who had the least feeling for Army life, nonetheless was the one who had to capture the psychology inside and out of the Army.[1] I, who am timid, cowardly, and wish only friendship and security, am the one who must take on the whole world (The small trumpet of my defiance).[2] I, whose sexual nature is to cling to one woman like a child embracing the universe, am driven by my destiny to be the orgiast, or at least the intellectual mentor of orgasm. I, who find it essentially easier to love than to hate; I who could probably find more people to love in the world than anyone I know, am destined to write about characters who are conventionally “un-loveable.” I, who in another time would have been the contemplative spirit which filled a cathedral with love, see my soul-duty as the man in the vanguard, the assassin in the night, the demolitioneer, the rapist, the arsonist, the murderer, the great destroyer. No wonder society chose me as the man to go to the end of the night—nobody could be more unfit for the job.

Contrariwise, Bob[3] is the psychopath sent out to become a saint. Yet, each of us takes our hard road. As I become tougher, more adventurous, more of a fighter, so Bob becomes more good. I am willing to bet he is a far kinder, more good person today than he used to be.


  1. Mailer, who served 25 months on active duty, part of it as a rifleman in a reconnaissance squad in the Philippines, often said he was ill-prepared for army life, and lucky to have survived the war.
  2. On the next-to-last page of The Deer Park, Sergius imagines Eitel telling him that as an artist he “must blow against the walls of every power that exists, the small trumpet of your defiance.”
  3. 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.