Life in the Stone Age 4

The classic case of this sort of thing is “Lucy in the Sky with Di¬amonds,” also on the Sgt. Pepper’s album. When the press got the idea that the title encrypted the initials LSD, John Lennon, who had written the song, expressed outrage. “Lucy in the Sky with Dia¬monds,” he allowed, was the name his little boy had given a ... Read More »

Life in the Stone Age 3

These images enjoyed long-term success in part because they suited the performers’ natural talents and temperaments. But it is pointless to think of scrutinizing them by the lights of authenticity. One reason popular culture gives pleasure is that it relieves people of this whole anxiety of trying to determine whether what they’re enjoying is real or fake. Mediation is the ... Read More »

Life in the Stone Age 2

The person who is interested in Mick mainly because he thinks that Mick is cool is the perfect person to run a magazine devoted to serious fandom. But he is a potential liability at a magazine devoted to serious criticism. Wenner was not a devotee of the authentic, not even a hypocritical one. He was a hustler; he believed in ... Read More »

Life in the Stone Age

If you advised a college student today to tune in, turn on, and drop out, she would probably call campus security. Few things sound less glamorous now than “the counterculture,” a term many peo¬ple are likely to associate with Charles Manson. Writing about that period feels a little like rummaging around in history’s dustbin. Just thirty-five years ago, though, everyone ... Read More »

Norman Mailer in HisTime 6

Mailer’s idea was to render the language of his real-life charac¬ters in the novelistic style known as free-indirect discourse—that is, to paraphrase them in language drawn from their own way of talk¬ing. He essentially created a voice between speech and narration. Brenda knew her power in conversations like this. She might be that much nearer to thirty-five than thirty, but ... Read More »

Norman Mailer in HisTime 5

Mailer was there before them, and he went much deeper into the possibilities released by the undermining of traditional distinc¬tions between journalism and fiction. The techniques of fiction are what made his piece on the 1960 Democratic National Convention, which nominated John F. Kennedy, “Superman Comes to the Su-permarket,” such a famous performance when it appeared in Es¬quire in 1960, ... Read More »

Norman Mailer in HisTime 4

Mailer’s review is very fine to a point—he is an exceptional critic—but he cannot get past the point. He is sympathetic to the use of grossly offensive imagery to shock audiences into some awareness of the technological horror of their spiritual condition. He has always relied heavily on obscenity in his own fiction with that end in mind. But he ... Read More »

Norman Mailer in HisTime 3

For most of the sixties Mailer was one of the things that was per¬mitted, since anyone who seemed sufficiently far out held an ap¬peal. And Mailer was a performer, a kind of celebrity the sixties loved. At the end of the decade, though, he ran into a wall. This was feminism. Mailer took feminism to be a tool of technology, ... Read More »

Norman Mailer in HisTime 2

The summa of these meditations was “The White Negro” (1956). The essay is notorious for a passage in which the case of two eighteen-year-olds murdering a candy-store owner is proposed, without much qualification, as an example of “daring the unknown.” (“One enters into a new relation with the police,” as the essay ex¬plains.) Irving Howe, who published “The White Negro” ... Read More »

Norman Mailer in HisTime

In 1998, when he was seventy-five, Norman Mailer published The Time of Our Time, an anthology of his own writing, selected by him and arranged as a commentary on American life since the Second World War. Almost all of Mailer’s books are represented in the volume, starting with The Naked and the Dead (1948), plus sev¬eral magazine pieces that had ... Read More »