Lipton’s Journal/January 24, 1955/250

From Project Mailer

To go back to note 246. The sociostatic repression allows the writer the least dangerous (to society) expression of his vision (homeodynamic urge). Therefore, style gives the clue usually to what happened in the soul. The great stylist is indeed a man who relatively does not have too much to say. There are geniuses like Joyce, Proust and Mann who said an awful lot, but the difficulties of their style kept them alive so to speak—they would have been hung if people had been able to understand them.

To the other side are the bad stylists like myself who are just overflowing with ideas. My sociostatic defense against being hung myself is that I express them so badly that nearly everyone reading this journal would take me for a crank. My sociostatic defense (S.D.) at this stage is to allow the ideas to come in such waves that all is confusion. The S.D. (Social Democrat) hopes that I’ll waste these ideas by throwing them away in the crudities of the style. But even this is dangerous for it.

For years my brain was most alive when I was incapable of taking a note, or trapping the thought. And in my novels like Barbary and Deer Park where I had comparatively few ideas, I could reach them only through great pain, and the most stubborn depression and writing blocks. Yet I broke sociostatic things in myself. I have lost weight and with it depression. I am manic, alive, filled every day with the excitement and revelation of everything I see.

Bergler,[1] who has homeodynamic impulses so vast that he has to smother them in the most violent reactionary sociostasis, too violent even for his confreres, reveals great truths by the absurdity of his dictums. And once in a while he is magnificently right, despite himself. So I understand that he wrote that the writer writes away the defense in the course of writing. And that is so true. There is that wonderful line in The Deer Park which goes: “There was that law of life, so cruel and so just, which demanded that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same.”[2] So the writer has to grow and the more his talent the more he has to grow.

Which is why it is so awful and so exciting to be a novelist. Of all the art forms it is the one where one can hide the least, and in this country where growth is the most accelerated there is small wonder that American novelists die artistically very young. To be a great American novelist demands a superman. That is why great writers in America are not able to turn out work after work of equal value—the moment they do not continue to grow, the sociostatic defenses chase them back in a rout, as indeed they have to for the great American writer is living very dangerously.


  1. An Austrian psychoanalyst and early follower of Freud, Edmund Bergler (1899-1962) focused on masochism and homosexuality in his many books and articles. He believed homosexuality was a neurosis that could be cured, and saw homosexuals as unscrupulous psychic masochists. Bergler is Mailer’s whipping boy in Lipton’s.
  2. One of the most quoted lines from Mailer’s works, it is inscribed on his gravestone.