The Mailer Review/Volume 13, 2019/Addendum to Lipton’s Journal

From Project Mailer
« The Mailer ReviewVolume 13 Number 1 • 2019 »

In the 2018, volume 12, of The Mailer Review, I published an essay entitled “Lipton’s Journal: Mailer’s Quest for Wholeness and Renewal.” At the time of publication, the volumes by and about Carl Jung in Mailer’s personal library archives were not yet indexed or available to researchers generally. However, at the Norman Mailer Society Conference at Wilkes University in 2019, the newly created Mailer Reading Room and Collection (on the second floor of the Farley Library) was available for viewing and future research. Conference attendees could tour the replication of Mailer’s study and library from his home in Provincetown, Massachusetts. While there, I spotted the shelves on which Mailer stored much of his collection on psychology and anthropology. I would like to add what I found in Mailer’s “Wilkes library” to the footnote that I appended to my 2018 article on Mailer’s Jungian project of personal transformation through the self-exploratory processes of his private journal, a footnote which reads as follows:

We know that Mailer read some Jung. In fact, Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections received an asterisk signifying its importance in the bibliography at the end of [The] Castle in the Forest. We know that his library contained Barbara Hanna’s Jung: His Life and Work (1991), but we don’t yet have a full list of what other books about or by Jung Mailer owned or consulted over the decades. Mailer’s Provincetown-study library is for now stored at the Mailer Center before being donated to Wilkes University, after which transfer we should have an index to the collection, including further works by Jung (Mailer archivist J. Michael Lennon tells me there are more in his email to me on 3/3/18). We know Mailer was contemplating a sequel to Harlot’s Ghost (Harlot’s Grave) with a Jungian protagonist. Moreover, Susan Mailer reported at a Mailer Society conference that her father questioned her (his psychotherapist daughter) rather pointedly about Jung in the 1970s. In January of 2007, during one of his last interviews, Mailer told Michael Lee in Cape Cod’s Literary Voice that he decided “on my own” that it’s as if “an unconscious was lent to us, almost like a Jungian notion” but “I didn’t have to read Carl Jung to decide this.” Mailer’s 2007 “notion” that “the unconscious taps into a deeper realm of knowledge that we possess,” if the unconscious “trusts you,” is also close to a classical sense of the Muse. Nonetheless, we have no firm evidence yet that he had read much or any Jung by 1955, although it’s obvious from the journal he knew about Jung, as so many knew generally of Freud and Jung (among other psychoanalysts) at the time. My speculation is that Mailer came to his self-analytic journaling technique by his own path, not by Jung’s, whose own journal wasn’t published until 2009. I offer this speculation (or challenge?) even though there are so many striking similarities between the methods and goals of both men and their journals. More archival work still might, of course, turn up some evidence of Mailer’s reading of Jung in the 1950s.

It turns out Mailer did in fact have a significant collection of Jung’s collected works, published in 20 volumes in its Bollingen Series by Princeton University Press. He also had other works about Jung, Aryan Christ’s and Frank McLyan’s biographies, as well as Jung’s own autobiography, mentioned above. From the Princeton series he had the handsome, durable paperback editions of Freud and Psychoanalysis, Symbols of Transformation, Alchemical Studies, Mysterium Coniunctionis, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, The Development of Personality, Aion, and The Practice of Psychotherapy.[a] Most of these works were referenced in my study of the archetypal dimensions of Mailer’s fiction and nonfiction (Acts of Regeneration, 1981). Other related works, such as Claude Levi-Strauss’s From Honey to Ashes: Introduction to a Science of Mythology, sat cheek by jowl with Mailer’s Jungian materials. Mailer certainly had a profound interest in the mythological and archetypal levels of his own work and Jung certainly helped Mailer form his own evolving theories of the psyche.

These books in the Wilkes University archive appeared to have been read or at least well consulted, although they lacked the heavy marginalia, dog-ears, tears and creases, or other indications of having been deeply mined during many a lucubration. There is no way of telling when Mailer might have consulted any of them, although they started becoming available in the late 1950s. But there now can be no doubt about Mailer’s substantial interest in Jung’s studies and theories in what came to be known as “depth psychology.”


  1. See The Collected Works of Carl Jung. Eds. Sir Herbert Read, Michael Fordham, and Gerhard Adler. 20 vols. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1957–1976.