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An American Dream (1960s Classics) Paperback – 17 Apr 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; (Reissue) edition (17 April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007115288
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007115280
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 11 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 628,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

‘Mailer writes like an angel – a master of small surprises that are precursors of seismic shocks.’
London Review of Books

From the Back Cover

"Mark Twain might have been more popular than Norman Mailer, and Hemingway more influential, but neither of these writers ever had so many thousands of people at their feet – and at their throats."
NEW YORK TIMES

'I was irritable suddenly, a sign of fatigue, the only sign of fatigue I could feel: my adrenaline had lit a new fire for the new drink. Sometime in the next hour of the next day would come a moment when I could lie down, when I would sleep – when I would try to – and then the memories of this night gone through would rise like the mutilated corpses of a battlefield, stare back at the battered face of Deborah which rose from each corpse.'

"Mailer writes like an angel – a master of small surprises that are precursors of seismic shocks."
LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Despite the outwardly satirical connotations behind the title of An American Dream, this novel is far less a political or intellectual attack on his homeland as it is a foray into the existential limits of Mailer's own mind.
The core of the book is a simple tale of the battle between the good and bad forces within a man's soul. The lead character and narrator of the story, Stephen Rojack, is not for the most part a bad person, and yet his actions are occasionally very bad indeed. By the end of the very first chapter, Rojack has already committed a single brutal act which will propel him forward into a life of deceit and fear and eventual tragedy.
From that moment onwards he becomes a victim of his own defiant temerity before his nation's laws and the morality of a culture he does not particularly value. His lack of conformity and his intelligence combine to destroy him, and at the end of the book it his only his primitive courage, the quintessence of his being as a man, that he is expected to rely on. The fates, angered by his gall, are left to exact their revenge via another to whom he has grown close during the whole ordeal. Thus eventually he receives his comeuppance, albeit indirectly.
Here we see Mailer depicting with great enthusiasm and earnestness the criminal elements of New York, and combining this grim setting with the inner thoughts and meditations of a man open to new interpretations of the world. The influence of writers such as Burroughs and Henry Miller are clearly visible in the incredible wealth of metaphors and the very obliqueness of the perspective which he takes on so many subjects.
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1 Comment 21 of 23 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By reader 451 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In some ways, Mailer's An American Dream must have shocked far more when it came out than it does now. Neither the very explicit sex scenes nor the violence are that unusual anymore. Other things, though, may surprise more than they did: the social commentary, for one. What is unusual about An American Dream is that the degeneracy all happens at the top. The protagonist, Stephen Rojack, is an ex-congressman and war hero. He has married an heiress and is confronted with her father, industrial magnate and spy. For another, there is the religious language in which much of Rojack's soul-searching is wrapped: twenty-first century agony would not be signposted in such moral terms. But this is Mailer, and it is unsurprisingly about more than sex and violence.

Yet on some level, this novel could read like an ordinary thriller, a very well-paced thriller at that. Rojack kills his wife early on (no spoiler here). The rest of the novel takes place in the following two days, as we wonder whether he will be caught, whether he'll turn himself in, or fall foul of his father-in-law's underground connections. Rojack goes on a rampage among Mafiosi and female cabaret singers. Nothing is spared in what could be interpreted either as headlong flight or search for atonement: American race relations, the country's war record, among others, are put through the grinder, not to forget TV and New York academia. An American Dream is a literary roller coaster. Be prepared to be shocked in ways you had not expected.
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Format: Paperback
Bought on a whim and the only Norman Mailer book I have read, An American Dream is a very very good book indeed. Mailer's prose is as sharp (jagged in places) as I have ever read - if you thought Bret Easton Ellis could be unforgiving, then the first chapter of this will give you something to consider! This is not to say that this book is to be thought of along the same lines as say 'American Psycho' (although there are similarities). The plot itself is rich, with many threads interweaving elegantly around eachother, a fantastic ending. Truly excellent if you are willing to put the effort in.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Probably doesn't work as an effective novel overall, but I found this enjoyable on the whole. Admittedly you need to be fairly broad-minded to handle much of the content and I guess it caused some controversy on publication in the Sixties.

I think you have to take Mailer as you find him - warts and all. Despite the novel's sleazy veneer, the central character's numerous reprehensible qualities, the obsession with sex etc, the quality of the writing still draws you in. Even Mailer off form is miles ahead of most novelists.

Ultimately the novel's title is apt. We are left with a trashy tale that may just be the fantastical ramblings of a protagonist who has been morally (and possibly physically) dead since World War Two.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is simply an outstanding read and I think only Norman Mailer could have written such an accomplished piece of work.

I bought this after reading his Tough Guy's Don't Dance, which was very good indeed, and having the desire to read another of his works decided to tackle this one which came with mixed reviews so I thought it may provide something of a challenge.

I needn't have worried. Mailer's characters and dialogue are second to none and you'd believe he was writing about people that he had met and spent some heavy-duty time with.

Read this book with an open mind and you'll be rewarded.
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