Posts Tagged ‘Norman Mailer’

Fellowships Available: Norman Mailer Center

April 24, 2013

J. Michael Lennon offers a tour

Fellowship applications are now available for the 2013 season at The Norman Mailer Center. The Center and the Colony offers Fellowships for fiction, nonfiction and poetry writers during the second half of 2013. During a Fellowship period of three weeks, the mentoring faculty will be headed by three highly regarded writers. Greg Curtis will mentor Nonfiction, Meena Alexander, Poetry, and Jeffery Renard Allen the Fiction fellows, each of whom will be in residence.

This year, from July 20 to August 10, 2013, Michael Mailer will host the Center’s fellowship programs at Norman’s home in Brooklyn Heights, New York.  Wilkes faculty member J. Michael Lennon will again be leading workshops with NMC. The Workshop schedule and details are also available online:

Previously, Wilkes alum Patricia A. Florio attended the Provincetown sessions. She has this to say:

“We all were in awe of our surroundings as Norman Mailer’s energy filled the room. Dr. Lennon gave us a tour of the home early on Sunday morning. You have to experience this tour through his home to understand the magnanimous legacy that he left behind. His office and writing desk were exactly as he left it on the day he died.  Books surrounded him. Papers, drawings, ideas on index cards filled his desk. We were on the third floor of his home looking at the view of Provincetown. A view, we were told, that Norman Mailer loved….

Every morning as we entered the house, the view of the beach and Cape Cod Bay filled our eyes. Dr. Lennon’s voice filled our ears.  It was the perfect storm for creative juices to flow. And flow they did.”

For more information about The Norman Mailer Center and available programs, visit

Lennon’s Mailer Biography News

April 17, 2013

lennon-jacket-220Norman Mailer: A Double Life, by J. Michael Lennon, will be published by Simon and Schuster on October 15, 2013.

J. Michael Lennon, Norman Mailer’s archivist, editor and authorized biographer, teaches creative writing at Wilkes University, and is the founding president of the Norman Mailer Society.

Lennon has a new website where news about the book, related events and signings, and more is now shared online. Visit The site will be regularly updated, and you can sign in and comment on the displayed materials.

J. Michael Lennon

J. Michael Lennon

J. Michael Lennon was authorized by Mailer and the Mailer estate to write his biography, and as such, had access to family and friends, and to unpublished documents, notably Mailer’s letters (Lennon has edited the letters for publication by Random House, Mailer’s longtime publisher). He has interviewed more than 80 people for this biography, but most important of all, he knew Mailer for decades before the latter’s death in 2007.

Norman Mailer: A Double Life reflects Mailer’s dual identities: journalist and activist, devoted family man and notorious philanderer, intellectual and fighter, writer and public figure. Mailer himself said he had two sides “and the observer is paramount.” Readers of Lennon’s biography may find this self-assessment to be debatable.

Norman Mailer: A Double Life will be 800+ pages in length (around 330,000 words), contain a bibliography, 43,000 words of notes, an index, and about 55 photos which will tell the story of Mailer’s life in another way. It will sell for $37.50, but pre-ordered is $24.28, or $19.99 for an electronic version. You can also order it via the website.

A Week in Provincetown: Mailer Center

August 29, 2012

A Week in Provincetown

By Patricia Florio

Patricia Florio

If you’ve ever had a dream come true, or received a wonderful compliment, or someone really special came into your life when you needed him or her most, that’s how it felt when I received notice that I had been a finalist in the 2012 Norman Mailer Fellowship Contest and I could choose two weeks in Provincetown at the Norman Mailer Center. I settled on one week to keep my life and my family’s life uncomplicated.

We were nine nonfiction writers sitting around the conference table in Norman Mailer’s house under the guidance of Dr. J. Michael Lennon.  Six of us had never met before.  Three of us were alumni from the Wilkes Creative Writing Program.

We all were in awe of our surroundings as Norman Mailer’s energy filled the room.  Dr. Lennon gave us a tour of the home early on Sunday morning. You have to experience this tour through his home to understand the magnanimous legacy that he left behind. His office and writing desk were exactly as he left it on the day he died.  Books surrounded him.  Papers, drawings, ideas on index cards filled his desk.  We were on the third floor of his home looking at the view of Provincetown.  A view, we were told, that Norman Mailer loved.

Every morning as we entered the house, the view of the beach and Cape Cod Bay filled our eyes. Dr. Lennon’s voice filled our ears.  It was the perfect storm for creative juices to flow.  And flow they did.

Young, Andrew, and Diane seated to my right hailed from Los Angeles CA, Lexington KY, and Brooklyn NY, along with all of the other writers, listened attentively as Patrick, across the table, shared his creative ideas for his book. Patrick is a state court judge from Chicago who has fought a tough fight for justice over the past forty years. Directly after his pitch that involved a fire in his building where his secretary and friends were killed, trapped inside a stairwell, is when our discussions took shape.  We elaborated on our critique for his opening chapters. Our minds worked on overtime, much to everyone’s delight. Patrick wrote down our suggestions. I think everyone of us would agree we would have stayed around that table discussing ideas through the night, if they would have let us.  But there are house rules at the Mailer Colony.  By six o’clock we all had to be off the premises. Most days we broke at four and sat on the deck together as boats went by, people swam in the bay, and our minds churned over the day’s events.

We were a forceful team thirty minutes into our first session. It’s amazing how it all happened. We bonded like glue; nine people who didn’t have a relationship when we entered the room became a force of creative power.  We were like a thunderbolt of electricity.  Light bulb after light bulb went off in our minds as we went around the table reading each other’s work.

Nick from Miami was working on a memoir he completed for Kindle Short: an exceptional piece of polished work that blew the rest of us writers away. Peggy from Dallas shared her memoir and memories of Paris, a love story that captured our souls.  Nicole from Boston is working on her dissertation for her PhD about Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings.  We worked extensively on this brilliant piece filling in the blanks for readers to understand how complicated his novel is to decipher.  Rachael from Wilkes-Barre struggled with the opening of her of memoir, as did I with my new memoir.  By the end of the week we sailed into the room, perhaps a bit tired, but we all made amazing breakthroughs in our work.

You can’t put a figure on what we received and gave each another that week.  And you can’t put a dollar amount on how blessed we were to have Dr. Lennon as our facilitator. A week for writers at Provincetown: Priceless!


Patricia A. Florio is the author of My Two Mothers and a graduate of the Wilkes University MA/MFA programs. She writes travel related articles for Striped Pot and lives in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Find Patricia online at

special post: Why Mailer Matters

January 25, 2012

“Why Mailer Matters: Three Reasons”  

By J. Michael Lennon, authorized biographer and Professor Emeritus, Wilkes University

Presented at the Mailer-Jones Conference, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas-Austin, November 10, 2011 


1.     Mailer was the key innovator in the new wave of participatory journalism that took place in the in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He argued that there were no immutable boundaries, no lines drawn in heaven, between the genres, and demonstrated this by drilling holes through all the watertight compartments dividing them. Mailer once described himself as “a Nijinsky of ambivalence,” and he was able to deploy the warring parts of his psyche as both actor and observer, protagonist and witness, and thus achieve the enviable status Walt Whitman described as “being in and out of the game, watching and wondering”—and doing. The consummate artistic control he exercised over his persona enabled him, in The Armies of the Night (1968) and succeeding works, to shift from The Beast to The Ruminant with ease, jumping from one to the other like circus acrobats leaping from one horse to another and then back again. Thus, he was able to avail himself of the techniques and powers of journalism, historical narrative, biography, autobiography, and the novel—always the master form for him because of its tendency to engulf and ingest other forms. I would add, however, that it was the idea of the novel, and its aspiration to range wide yet dive deep, that inspired and allowed him plunder and reshape the other forms. His actual novelistic achievements, while brilliant, sit in the second row behind his successes in the polemical essay and several kinds of nonfiction narrative, including one often passed over too quickly—biography. As Richard Poirier once wrote, Mailer was Melville without Moby-Dick, George Eliot without Middlemarch, and Mark Twain without Huckleberry Finn. But with The Armies of the Night and The Executioner’s Song (1979), he has his Walden and his Crime and Punishment.    

2.      Mailer was the most important public intellectual in the American literary world for over 30 years, and along with other figures such as William Buckley, Saul Bellow, Gore Vidal and Susan Sontag, helped establish the creative writer as important a commentator as politicians, pundits and professors. Mailer presented his ideas and commentary on modern politics and culture in every major media venue, save the Internet, and he even dabbled there in his final years. No American writer going back to Mark Twain mastered the modes of communicating with a variety of audiences for as long or as well as Mailer. He wrote for every sort of magazine and journal, underground and aboveground—Partisan Review, Parade, Esquire, Playboy, Way Out, Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, Dissent, Life, Look, Village Voice, Nugget, the NYRB and the New Yorker—over 100 different periodicals. He appeared on every major talk show, and many obscure ones. People saw him with Charlie Rose and Dick Cavett, and heard him at 2 a.m. on a local radio show in Nevada. He spoke at most of the major universities in the country, making hundreds of appearances; he was on symposia and panels in a variety of venues. One of his wives said he would go the opening of an envelope. He could be counted on to present his point of view on the controversy du jour in a letter to the editor—hundreds—an essay, interview, live broadcast or a book. He was the cultural spokesperson for a generation, probably two, and was our hero, our man out on a limb talking a blue streak, fulminating against technology, pollution and plastic, worrying about our fragile democracy, and taking on all comers. No American writer—Christopher Hitchens (another Left Conservative) might be the closest—has yet come close to replacing him.  

3.      Mailer was the most important chronicler of and commentator on the major events and figures of American life during the last half of the twentieth century. He had daring ideas and insights on the great events and phenomena of the period: the Depression and World War II, McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklist, the Cold War, Black Power, the sexual revolution, Vietnam and civil disobedience, the Women’s Liberation Movement, technology and the space program, prize fights and political conventions (he covered six), and some of the most loved and hated persons of the 20th century: Muhammad Ali and Marilyn Monroe, Hemingway, Castro, Nixon, Gary Gilmore, Lee Harvey Oswald, Madonna, Jackie Kennedy, Picasso and Henry Miller, and at the end of his life, Adolph Hitler. The most important figure was John. F. Kennedy. No event in American history reverberated as long and hard for Mailer as Kennedy’s assassination. It was either the focus or the backdrop for eight of his books, from The Presidential Papers (1963) to Oswald’s Tale (1995). He owned two sets of the 26-volume Warren Commission Report, and was obsessed by the causes and effects of J.F.K.’s death and legacy. The Time of Our Time (1998), his 1300-page, one-volume anthology organized by the date of the events chronicled therein, is one of the few narrative works that can stand comparison to John Dos Passos’s chronicle of the first half of the 20th century, U.S.A. We would not know what America was about for a long stretch of years after WWII, not as well as we do, were it not for Mailer’s words. 

In sum: Perhaps no career in American literature has been as brilliant, varied, controversial, public, productive, lengthy and misunderstood. 

[Note: the phrase “out on a limb talking a blue streak,” or something close to it, is borrowed from a review read long ago, and not since located. Thanks to the reviewer, wherever he is ensconced.]


Thank you to J. Michael Lennon for contributing this guest post. Guest posts are welcome! Email if you would like to submit a post for the Wilkes creative writing community.