O U T S I D E L E F T   stay i n d e p e n d e n t

One Less White Negro

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

get the weekly Outsideleft newsletter
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.

see more stories from outsideleft's Sports Sex & Health archive »»

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.

more stories you really could read...


thumb through the ancient archives:

search for something you might like...


sign up for the outsideleft weekly. a selection of new and archived stories every week. Or less.

View previous campaigns.

An A-Z of KL
Longtime O/L collaborator Kirk Lake has a new novel out. Mickey The Mimic - a neo-noir take on British art and music at the end of the 1990s. His first novel since 1997. Where's he been? How lazy is that?
Aretha.Love.Respect
She was right there for all the times I fell in love
Gorgeous George (2 of 2)
Part 2 (of 2) of Paul Hawkins' interview with George Pringle
Behind the Counterculture #30: Mark E. Smith
In this episode, the Fall's Mark E. Smith comes by the store...
The Rebirth (part one)
In the first of several parts, Shane O'Reilly shares his love of South East Asia...
Most Things Don't Happen is a Happening
Kirk Lake has just published a selection of his lyrics, poetry and smattering of short stories in one handy and affordable volume.
Some of our favorite things...