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Quotes of the day: Norman Mailer

Published Monday, November 09, 2015 @ 3:39 PM EST
Nov 09 2015

Norman Kingsley Mailer (January 31, 1923 – November 10, 2007) was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, playwright, film- maker, actor and political activist. His novel The Naked and the Dead was published in 1948. His best-known work was widely considered to be The Executioner's Song, which was published in 1979, and for which he won one of his two Pulitzer Prizes. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, his book Armies of the Night was awarded the National Book Award. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A modern democracy is a tyranny whose borders are undefined; one discovers how far one can go only by traveling in a straight line until one is stopped.

A political convention is after all not a meeting of a corporation's board of directors; it is a fiesta, a carnival, a pig- rooting, horse-snorting, band-playing, voice-screaming medieval get- together of greed, practical lust, compromised idealism, career- advancement, meeting, feud, vendetta, conciliation, of rabble-rousers, fist fights (as it used to be), embraces, drunks (again as it used to be) and collective rivers of animal sweat.

America is a hurricane, and the only people who do not hear the sound are those fortunate if incredibly stupid and smug White Protestants who live in the center, in the serene eye of the big wind.

Booze, pot, too much sex, failure in one's private life, too much attrition, too much recognition, too little recognition. Nearly everything in the scheme of things works to dull a first-rate talent. But the worst probably is cowardice.

Culture is worth a little risk.

Destroy time, and chaos may be ordered.

Each day a few more lies eat into the seed with which we are born, little institutional lies from the print of newspapers, the shock waves of television, and the sentimental cheats of the movie screen.

Every moment of one's existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit.

Hip is the sophistication of the wise primitive in a giant jungle.

Historical, religious, and existential treatises suggest that for some persons at some times, it is rational not to avoid physical death at all costs. Indeed the spark of humanity can maximize its essence by choosing an alternative that preserves the greatest dignity and some tranquility of mind.

I always start a book for money. If you've been married five times, you have to.

I do believe that America's deepest political sickness is that it is a self-righteous nation.

I had a quick grasp of the secret to sanity- it had become the ability to hold the maximum of impossible combinations in one's mind.

In America all too few blows are struck into flesh. We kill the spirit here, we are experts at that. We use psychic bullets and kill each other cell by cell.

In America few people will trust you unless you are irreverent.

Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor.

New York is one of the capitals of the world and Los Angeles is a constellation of plastic, San Francisco is a lady, Boston has become Urban Renewal, Philadelphia and Baltimore and Washington blink like dull diamonds in the smog of Eastern Megalopolis, and New Orleans is unremarkable past the French Quarter. Detroit is a one-trade town, Pittsburgh has lost its golden triangle, St Louis has become the golden arch of the corporation, and nights in Kansas City close early. The oil depletion allowance makes Houston and Dallas naught but checkerboards for this sort of game. But Chicago is a great American city. Perhaps it is the last of the great American cities.

Obsession is the single most wasteful human activity, because with an obsession you keep coming back and back and back to the same question and never get an answer.

Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists.

One of the diseases of the left is political correctness. If you're out of power for too long, then you just get worse and worse about how important your own ideas are.

Revolutions are the periods of history when individuals count most.

Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment.

Short-term amnesia is not the worst affliction if you have an Irish flair for the sauce.

The final purpose of art is to intensify, even, if necessary, to exacerbate, the moral consciousness of people.

The horror of the Twentieth Century was the size of each new event, and the paucity of its reverberation.

The natural role of twentieth-century man is anxiety.

The only true journey of knowledge is from the depth of one being to the heart of another.

The rage now is, oh, so deep it's almost comfortable. It has even approached the point where I can live with it philosophically. The world's not what I want it to be. But then no one ever said I had the right to design the world.

The true religion of America has always been America.

The ultimate tendency of liberalism is vegetarianism.

There are four stages to marriage. First there's the affair, then there's the marriage, then children, and finally the fourth stage, without which you cannot know a woman, the divorce.

There is no greater impotence in all the world like knowing you are right and that the wave of the world is wrong, yet the wave crashes upon you.

There is nothing safe about sex. There never will be.

There is one expanding horror in American life. It is that our long odyssey toward liberty, democracy and freedom-for-all may be achieved in such a way that utopia remains forever closed, and we live in freedom and hell, debased of style, not individual from one another, void of courage, our fear rationalized away.

There was that law of life so cruel and so just which demanded that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same.

There's a subterranean impetus towards pornography so powerful that half the business world is juiced by the sort of half sex that one finds in advertisements.

We've got an agreeable, comfortable life here as Americans. But under it there's a huge, free-floating anxiety. Our inner lives, our inner landscape is just like that sky out there- it's full of smog. We really don't know what we believe anymore, we're nervous about everything.

What characterizes a member of a minority group is that he is forced to see himself as both exceptional and insignificant, marvelous and awful, good and evil.

What were the phenomena of the world today? If I knew little else, I knew the answer- war, and the preparations for new war.

With the pride of an artist, you must blow against the walls of every power that exists, the small trumpet of your defiance.

You don't know a woman until you've met her in court.


(November 10 is also the birthday of Oliver Goldsmith and John P. Marquand.)

Categories: Norman Mailer, Quotes of the day


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