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One Less White Negro

Outsideleft literary editor, Joe Ambrose on the old man's death of Norman Mailer

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by Joe Ambrose, Literary Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: November, 2007
The Executioner's Song... the novel-of-choice for the punk generation.

When Mailer was hip, throughout the Sixties and Seventies, he was extraordinarily famous and popular for one who was a proper intellectual and a proper writer. All his life he wanted to weave the great American novel. He sensed that he'd failed to do this but maybe he got it wrong. His conceived-as-a-potboiler The Executioner's Song certainly ranks right up there with The Great Gatsby or Franny and Zooey or Naked Lunch as a tome that really puts the screws to you. It - rather than the work of Burroughs or Kerouac - was the novel-of-choice for the punk generation. Its dark stark parched style ran parallel to a lot of work being done at that time by young punks. The interesting thing about it was that such an era-defining book was written by a man already into late middle age, the veteran of a Fifties bebop literary explosion. He was toweringly ambitious and competitive. He liked to be straddled up on top of an era, calling the shots. The last I saw of him was in the Deep Throat documenttary, Inside Deep Throat, yapping away merrily about nothing in particular, happy to be on-camera and in demand.

So it is sad that such an exuberant and talented man is gone.

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Joe Ambrose
Literary Editor

Joe Ambrose has written 14 books, including Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. Joe is currently working on his next book, Look at Us Now - The Life and Death of Muammar Ghadaffi, which is an expanded version of a story first published in the anthology CUT UP! Visit Joe's website for all the latest info: JoeAmbrose.co.uk.

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