Literary Birthday – 31 January – Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer was born 31 January 1923, and died 10 November 2007.

Norman Mailer: 10 Quotes On Writing

  1. Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.
  2. One of my basic notions for a long, long time is that there is this mysterious mountain out there called reality. We novelists are always trying to climb it. We are mountaineers, and the question is, Which face do you attack? Different faces call for different approaches, and some demand a knotty and convoluted interior style. Others demand great simplicity. The point is that style is an attack on the nature of reality.
  3. I don’t know if I need seclusion, but I do like to be alone in a room.
  4. Writing can wreck your body. You sit there on the chair hour after hour and sweat your guts out to get a few words.
  5. Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego.
  6. It’s difficult to write about childhood. I never felt I understood it in any novel way. I never felt other authors did either. Not particularly. I think the portrait of childhood which is given by most writers is rarely true to anything more than the logic of their novel.
  7. Every one of my books had killed me a little more.
  8. I think it’s bad to talk about one’s present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension.
  9. Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists.
  10. The difference between writing a book and being on television is the difference between conceiving a child and having a baby made in a test tube.

Norman Mailer: On Writing Classes

‘I learned a great deal from writing classes. … And it also chops down that terribly unstable vanity that young writers have, you know, where they think, “I’m a great writer”, and at the same time they can’t take a single criticism, and writing courses are good for that. They weather you. It’s a little bit like a kid who wants to play varsity football but never tries out for the team. So you go to that writing class and you get toughened up a little.’ (‘Norman Mailer Interview’, The Academy of Achievement, June 12, 2004)

Must-Read: 6 Writing Tips From Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, playwright, film maker, actor and political candidate. He wrote more than 40 books and won the Pulitzer Prize twice, and the National Book Award. His first novel was The Naked and the Dead. His best work was considered to be The Executioner’s Song. Along with Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, and Tom Wolfe, Mailer is considered an innovator of creative non-fiction. He married six times, before finally settling down with artist Norris Church Mailer. They were together for 30 years.

Image: By Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer – Norman Mailer, writer, Public Domain,

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 31st January 2013