Letters from Norman Mailer

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 10, 2008

This collection of letters written by Norman Mailer over the course of the last 60 years is a revealing portrait of the author and an interesting look at the history of the last half of the 20th century.

I'm rather depressed these days. It's been years since anything I've done has turned out successfully — with a few rare exceptions — and I'm falling into the thing which afflicted you a couple of years ago — a failure of the will, shall we say. My ambitions seem far beyond my talents, and light-years beyond the vicissitudes of my character, and I think of this enormous novel I'm now starting, which could well take ten years, and if done properly, it must be unpublishable except in green-backed French "dirty" editions, and I'll be middle-aged when it's done, and somehow I just don't believe in myself the way I used to, and indeed, worst of all, it doesn't even seem terribly important. I'm beginning to have the tolerance of the defeated — people I would have despised a few years ago now seem bearable — after all, I say to myself, I haven't done very well with all the luck I had, and perhaps I do wrong to judge them.

I particularly like the letters written to William F. Buckley, Jr., a man whom Mailer called a friend but with whom he disagreed vehemently on political issues. Don't see much of that today, publicly at least.