Norman Mailer was a major American essayist and social commentator. He was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York in a middle class Jewish family. He was a motivated student with a competitive streak. His passion towards writing was seen since his childhood. He finished his schooling from Brooklyn’s Boys High School in 1939 and got admission in Harvard from where he achieved a degree in aeronautical engineering. Since his first love had always been writing, Mailer continued to write whenever he got the chance. Mailer wrote a sci-fi story named ‘Invasion from Mars’ only at the age of nine. He also won a contest of story writing that was funded by the ‘Story’ magazine. Mailer also served in the army after graduating where he served as a sergeant in the Pacific. After the end of the World War II, he decided to continue with his education at the Sorbonne, Paris.
By the age of 25 Mailer had published his first novel which he had finished only in fifteen months. It was called ‘The naked and the Dead’ (1948). The book received enormous success and turned Mailer into a celebrity overnight. After spending a year in Hollywood, he went back to New York to settle in Greenwich Village where he continued writing various novels. His books ‘Barbary Shore’ (1951) and ‘The Deer Park’ (1955) were both inspired from political issues of that time. He wrote for several magazines on topics of sex, drugs and racial discrimination. His book ‘The White Negro’ was a reflection of the racism and estrangement of that era’s Beat generation.
Mailer became to be known as a provocative writer of the late 1950. His work became highly acknowledged with meaningful and incendiary subject matters. His personal life was turning into a disaster with drugs and violence being a large part of it. He was also given a sentence after he stabbed his wife while drunk. Though the couple was reconciled for some time they eventually got divorced.
At the end of 1960 Mailer turned his focus more towards social issues of the society, like civil rights and war opposing movements and various revolutions. He worked a journalist covering important conventions of the Democrats and Republicans. His political interest was shown through many of this writings such as ‘Presidential Papers’ (1963) and ‘An American Dream’ (1965). His prose was strong and his point of view was obvious in his books. He became well famous for his counter cultural essays.
Mailer also wrote various biographical accounts that include life stories of Muhammad Ali, Gary Gilmore, Pablo Picasso, Lee Harvey Oswald and Marilyn Monroe. He wrote more than forty books and eleven novels during his life.
Mailer died on 10th November 2007 due to kidney failure in Manhattan, New York.. As a winner of the two times Pulitzer award, Mailer has contributed enormously to American literature. He has the ‘Norman Mailer Center’ and ‘Norman Mailer Writer Society’ which are non-profit organizations, named after him.