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The Time Of Our Time [Paperback]

Norman Mailer

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Book Description

3 Jun 1999
THE TIME OF OUR TIME is a selection of Mailer's best work, chosen by Mailer himself, and ingeniously arranged as a literary retrospective. It is a masterly, boisterous portrait of our times, seen through the fiction and reportage of a great writer. Included are passages from THE NAKED AND THE DEAD, THE ARMIES OF THE NIGHT and THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG, as well as many of his other works and his best-known magazine pieces from Marilyn Monroe to Madonna. This giant omnibus is a testament to Mailer's enormous energies, his vast curiosity, and his amazing talent and amounts almost to a self-chosen literary 'autobiography'.


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Compiling an anthology of one's own work can be a tricky business. Norman Mailer, of course, first committed this act of literary cannibalism back in 1959, when he assembled a brilliant collage of stories, journalism, essays, and poetry, Advertisements for Myself . Now, 50 years after the publication of his first novel, Gore Vidal's favourite sparring partner has put together another, more massive anthology, advertising not only himself but what we might call (paraphrasing Frost) his lover's quarrel with American life. "Over the course of years," Mailer writes in his foreword, "most of us compose in the privacy of our minds a social and cultural history of the years through which we have passed." True enough. But Mailer's history of the American Imperium has always been public-- extremely public--and in The Time of Our Time he attempts to get it all into a single book.

Surely this sense of himself as the republic's recording angel accounts for the structure of Mailer's anthology: rather than arranging the excerpts by date of composition, he groups them by the historical era they describe. His 1963 polemic about the Bay of Pigs fiasco, for example, appears alongside his cloak-and-dagger reconstruction of the same event from Harlot's Ghost (1991). Fiction and fact lie cheek-by-jowl and eventually become impossible to tell apart. Here is the fulfilment of a project that Mailer began decades ago with such cunning hybrids as Armies of the Night. Yet this enormous volume shouldn't be read merely as a hand-tooled work of history. It is also the record of a phenomenal literary career, documenting Mailer's initial triumphs, his adrenaline-infused masterpieces of the late 1960s, hyperbolic stinkers like Marilyn and Ancient Evenings, and the astringent sorrow and awe of The Executioner's Song, which marked his return to form in 1979 after a long fallow period. Who but this loudmouthed, elegant, shrewd and invariably excessive author would claim that his time--that is, his accounting of it--is essentially our time? And who else could even begin to make such a claim stick? The list is short indeed. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

He is a genuine original, working against the grain of most of his contemporaries (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

America's best writer (OBSERVER)

The book is like Mailer himself, a sprawling, raging talent, equally infuriating and captivating. (SCOTSMAN)

You reel at the energy, diversity and, yes, genuis displayed in this essential book. (INDEPENDENT)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imperfect Brilliance 11 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Norman Mailer has had a radical trajectory through the course of his career, and now, at age 75 with fifty years as a professional writer behind him, a summary collection is the fashion, and "The Time of Our Time" is the door stopper through which posterity should judge either his ascension, or decline in our literary Olympus. It's amazing, actually , how Mailer has controlled the course of criticisim of his work, as he did with "Advertisements for Myself" and later with the "Prisoner of Sex", both books through which his aesthetics were linked with a peculiarly Maileresque cosmology. One might despise Mailer and his philosophy, but a critic was still trapped discussing the work through the author's obsessions. And that is the mark of brilliance, Mailer could get is readers to talk about things he wanted to speak to, because his language is strangely persuasive, at his high point, even as it addresses the dark and obscene corners of the imagination, and the baser instincts of American power. "The Time of Our Time'again makes us consider his entire career through Mailer's filter, and understandably, it can be aggravating for someone expecting an easy in to the body of work.But it gives us the rewards, with generous selections form his best work, "Naked and the Dead", Armies of the Night", "Executioner's Song","An American Dream"--and like wise long excerpts from slighter efforts, like "Gospel According to the Son" and his recent Picasso biography. What there is is an an impressive reach over the five decades that he's been in the public eye, an early brashness turning into a combative and provocative brilliance that at times trips over it's own eloquence that later turned into thoughtful , epic scale story telling through which the previous ego centric prose vanished behind the tragedy writ in the Gary Gilmore saga. It's difficult not to be impressed with the range of Mailer's topics, in fiction, journalism, and essa! ys--World War 2 in the Pacific, Moon Landings, Black power, Women's Rights, Hunting, Reichian sexuality, the failure of Marxism, The Kennedy Assasination, Ancient Egypt, masculinity and American Literature, the dread of Modern architecture, the real meaning of the right wing, Boxing--and while Mailer at times seems breathless and throat clearing in his writing, that he's spreading a style too thin to cover the feeling that he's , for the moment, is bereft of anything interesting to say, you note the way he changes tact, changes styles, and ushers in another period of solid books that stand as his strongest."The Time of Our Time" provides an over long reflection of a career that has been victim of the author's proclaimed desire to be the champ of his generation, but it also gives us a chance to appreciate a brilliant talent that found expression in spite of Mailer's the self-annihilating quirks. Controversial, problematic, self-absorbed, but quintessientially American, and one of the best witnesses we could have had for the second half of the century.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imperfect Genius 2 May 2003
By Ted Burke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Norman Mailer has had a radical trajectory through the course of his career, and now, at age 75 with fifty years as a professional writer behind him, a summary collection is the fashion, and "The Time of Our Time" is the door stopper through which posterity should judge either his ascension, or decline in our literary Olympus.
It's amazing, actually, how Mailer has controlled the course of criticism of his work, as he did with "Advertisements for Myself" and later with the "Prisoner of Sex", both books through which his aesthetics were linked with a peculiarly Maileresque cosmology. One might despise Mailer and his philosophy, but a critic was still trapped discussing the work through the author's obsessions. And that is the mark of brilliance, Mailer could get is readers to talk about things he wanted to speak to, because his language is strangely persuasive, at his high point, even as it addresses the dark and obscene corners of the imagination, and the baser instincts of American power.
"The Time of Our Time" again makes us consider his entire career through Mailer's filter, and understandably, it can be aggravating for someone expecting an easy in to the body of work. But it gives us the rewards, with generous selections form his best work, "Naked and the Dead", Armies of the Night", "Executioner's Song"," An American Dream"--and like wise long excerpts from slighter efforts, like "Gospel According to the Son" and his recent Picasso biography. What there is an impressive reach over the five decades that he's been in the public eye, an early brashness turning into a combative and provocative brilliance that at times trips over it's own eloquence that later turned into thoughtful, epic scale story telling through which the previous ego centric prose vanished behind the tragedy writ in the Gary Gilmore saga.
It's difficult not to be impressed with the range of Mailer's topics, in fiction, journalism, and essays! --World War 2 in the Pacific, Moon Landings, Black power, Women's Rights, Hunting, Reichian sexuality, the failure of Marxism, The Kennedy Assassination, Ancient Egypt, masculinity and American Literature, the dread of Modern architecture, the real meaning of the right wing, Boxing--and while Mailer at times seems breathless and throat clearing in his writing, that he's spreading a style too thin to cover the feeling that he's , for the moment, is bereft of anything interesting to say, you note the way he changes tact, changes styles, and ushers in another period of solid books that stand as his strongest." The Time of Our Time" provides an over long reflection of a career that has been victim of the author's proclaimed desire to be the champ of his generation, but it also gives us a chance to appreciate a brilliant talent that found expression in spite of Mailer's the self-annihilating quirks.
Controversial, problematic, self-absorbed, but quintessentially American, and one of the best witnesses we could have had for the second half of the century
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mailer's Greatest Hits--But Not For Readers Unfamiliar with Mailer's Work 11 May 2010
By Kevin M. Derby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"The Time of Our Time" gathers together some of Norman Mailer's best writings but, unlike some "greatest hits" collections from writers, it is not an introduction. It is 1,300 pages-way too long to be an introduction. What Mailer offered in this work, a celebration of both his 75th birthday and his 50 years in publication, is an chronology of American life from World War Two to Clinton winning a second term in 1996--with a look at ancient Egypt and Jesus hanging on as an afterthought. Mailer offers slices of his novels, interviews with famous figures and his own, reports of political conventions, thoughts on boxing matches, a look at Watergate, arguments with feminists, reports on the JFK assassination, a glimpse at Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe and other writings. It's a haunting snapshot of the chaos, passion and turmoil of the last half of the 20th century in America. A parade of the great and near great march through: Eugene McCarthy, Mailyn Quayle, Gary Gilmore, Salman Rushdie, Abbie Hoffman, Nelson Rockefeller, Madonna, Gore Vidal, Neil Armstrong, a bullfighter named "El Loco", Floyd Patterson. There are strange moments and one wonders where Mailer was in the 80s. It's telling that Ronald Reagan pops up in the political drama of 1968 but not as president while George H. W. Bush pops up as the main figure in two essays. Mailer fans will wonder why some parts of his books are included but not others-did we need to revisit the detour in "Harlot's Ghost" to Uruguay again? Why didn't Mailer include the start of "Harlot's Ghost" as Harry Hubbard has a harrowing night in Maine? Why are none of the screenplays here? Why so little of "Naked and the Dead"? Any fan will have problems with a given "greatest hits" collection be it U2's best songs or Tennyson's best poems or a collection of the greatest Yankees games ever. This work is no introduction to Mailer but it is a comprehensive look into the minds and craft of one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars writer at work 14 Feb 2008
By Case Quarter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
1300 pages is a big book, though norman mailer has written big books before, harlot's ghost and the executioner's song both top 1000 pages. if you're book weary, not to worry, the time of our time is an anthology of mailer's fiction and non-fiction selected from a 50 year writing history, from his over night sensational war novel, the naked and the dead, in 1948, to a couple of essays, included only in the paperback edition, on the morals of bill clinton and tom wolfe's second novel, a man in full, written in 1998.

i wouldn't suggest the time of our time as an introduction to mailer, the best way to read mailer is to grab one of his books, any one, and start reading, experiencing him at full tilt as he rides forth his ideas in one of his guises.

like soren kierkegaard, mailer takes on different names for himself in his non-fiction. what kierkegaard did anonymously as the author from the outside, mailer, who at one stage of his journey speaks of his ego, published his books under his name and, from inside the telling, calls himself a different name for each book: the reporter, the dean, aquarius, even mailer in the third person. and like kierkegaard, he's also a theological existentialist actively contemplating good and evil, god and devil. in an essay on jimmy carter, mailer visits carter in plains, ga, on a sunday, first at the church where carter, presidential nominee, is teaching sunday school, and later in the day at carter's home. mailer having read a quote by kierkegaard used by carter in his autobiography, mailer, territorial, attempts to sound carter out on his thoughts on kierkegaard, and is unable to break through carter's political speak.

and the time of our time shows mailer the challenger for the championship of the writer of the great novel as held by ernest hemingway. part of mailer's journey is doing battle with the hemingway persona: mailer as boxing fan and weekend boxer, mailer as bullfight afficianado, mailer living with grace under pressure, even mailer as serial husband. mailer sends one of his novels to hemingway for hemingway's blessing and in the silence of an answer begins to free himself from hemingway's shadow. his writing style undergoes a change, his sentences become run-on and serpentine, similar to sartre and kerouac, his sex scenes more direct, henry miller he cites as a great american writer, and he embues the form of non-fiction with a novelist's gifts. not that he forgets hemingway. a book of short stories by hemingway is entitled our time. mailer's probably most famous short story is the time of her time, and, of course, there's the title of the anthology.

the first book i read by norman mailer was of a fire on the moon, and i've never read any piece of non-fiction like that before. a sentence chosen at random from the selection in the time of our time: it had been a glum moment for aquarius. it was late at night, he was tired, he had been drinking with students for hours. as usual he was overweight. the boy was smaller than him but not at all overweight, fast.' those are sentences i'd expect to find in a novel not a work of non-fiction.

i don't care for anthologies and author readers. i bought the time of our time for a few complete pieces i haven't read. i did read the sections of the couple of books i haven't read, and what began to emerge was, well, what mailer intended and what he describes in his preface, a social history. and throughout many of the pages a history of the men who might become president, our most powerful position in the land. the arrangement of selections achieves a cohesiveness good as that in many a single book. after describing bill clinton as a pharaoh in an essay, the essay is followed by selections from mailer's novel, ancient evenings, about a pharoah.

and there's much more. mailer on psychoanalysis. mailer the hard drinker while on assignments, and his reflections on drinking, interviewing eagleton after his resignation as mcgovern's vice-presidential candidate: 'the impost of booze spoke of a war against too much of some powerful quality in oneself, too much perhaps of passion, talent, or pain.'

needless to say, i love norman mailer's writing. if you're on good terms with the writings of norman mailer, by all means get a hold of this book. if you're considering norman mailer's writing for the first time, if you insist on having this book, then resist reading it until you read something else by mailer.
4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wicked and Bristling with Dots: 10 Feb 2006
By Philip Morais - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
At approximately 1,300 pages in hardback or paperback The Time of Our Time (1998) may not seem worth your eyestrain, an understandable misunderstanding since this length is in character. The reader of capable imagination to interpret Norman Mailer as a central protagonist woven in this book, an Edward Gibbon chronicling America as a superpower, will enjoy company with a teller of a tale often parading his hutzpah. From first setting out to type one of the greatest novels in Advertisements for Myself (1959), this latest incarnation of the writer is engaged in no less humble a boast than to place a face on history that is his. Nonetheless, this spread is emanating out of more than vain fanning of literary plumage: if you take only those non-fiction works which won Pulitzer Prizes and add to that only fiction titles on The Modern Library's 100 Best Novels list, one arrives at over 2,000 pages of highly estimated prose. Unlike other considerable talents of the second half of the 20th century, say Ralph Ellison with Invisible Man (1952) or Thomas Pynchon with Gravity's Rainbow (1973), our author has by general consensus no single representative piece of writing: a body of publications is his contribution, a book of this scope is then an ideal read with which to begin as well as an essential chapter in comprehending one of the more prolific and influential penmen in American letters.

Origins and final phases usually meet in an exhaustive career, discovery or "anagnorsis" Aristotle explored for drama: this volume is then readable as a denouement affirming autobiography as a frame narrative. If this voice surfaced for announcing a modus operandi to effect "a revolution in the consciousness of our time," our issue is that forecast determining what savour shapes action to follow, approximately 40 years worth in the current anthology. Certainly there has been a revolution in the consciousness of our time, a technological one of our electronic jungle swamping us nanosecond by nanosecond. Consider what complementarity plays off Understanding Media (1964) by Marshall McLuhan with technological interaction embodied in the present collection since Norman Mailer becomes user and content of many of those mediums saged upon: television, advertisements, newspaper and magazine articles, nationalist in keeping with bias of print, prisoner of spoken and written language shifting from reliance on a typewriter to a tape recorder with The Executioner's Song (1979) selections, cinéma vérité dabbler for whom BBC documentary Will The Real Norman Mailer Please Stand Up? (1967) was memory aid of the Pentagon march as well as reels from When We Were Kings (1996) for what we read of the Ali and Foreman bout. The peripety vis-à-vis "a revolution in the consciousness of our time" can thus be judged neither failure as if tragedy nor success as if comedy. The "Dean Scream" quality of inflection in the phrase, splitting appreciation in the militant mode of irony that arrives at satire, transforms our Tesla coil of historian fused with history as a promising campaign gone wrong, as a highly inescapable do's and don'ts historiography manual.

With The Time of Our Time (1998) Norman Mailer has archetypalized himself and in the seven years since publication, within which films Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) and now Oscar hopeful Capote (2005) have given similar treatment to fellow New Journalists, I continue to find more relevance for our author today. This song of himself is obviously impossible before mass communications and anticipation of now ubiquitous blog sensibility, brilliantly and blatantly mixing personal and political votives for more scores of writers than I can count, including feminists who naturally felt no inclination to appreciate what space he created in culture and in literature. Like with Leaves of Grass (1881) we confront one lopsided and quintessentially American epic drafted out of the lifetime of the writer unable to long escape voicing self as a performance, spiritual questing shared with characters both real and invented on this ash and fire cycle of an identity question whose umbilical answer is violence, prose counterpoint to Whitman as a blurring line between fiction and non-fiction and epochs and often unrecognizable shifting styles in an age of post-literacy as well as of other unnameable uncertainty that stops at some future waiting for us.
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