The Naked and the Dead

Norman Mailer

Coming on the heels of WWII (in 1948), this tale about an imaginary battle in the Pacific was topical, anti-war and offered some a form of cloture to the tragedies of WWII, and, therefore, was a huge success, running on the NY Times Best Seller List for 62 weeks. It is, however, enormously long, prolix to a fault and pales in comparison to Heller’s Catch 22, which accomplishes what N&D does not: reveal war from the inside out, with pathos, humour, irony and credulity.

Mailer (1923-2007) was raised in a Jewish family in Brooklyn, N.Y.; he attended Harvard, served in the Army (as a cook) in the Philippines in WWII, and became a journalist, essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, screenwriter and film director. – and a political activist, even being arrested his anti-Vietnam War protests. He wrote N&D while continuing his studies at The Sorbonne in Paris. He won The Pulitzer Price twice and the National Book Award once. He was married six times and had nine children. His autobiography of Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn, in which he accused the FBI of involvement in her death, was his biggest seller, next to N&D.

Despite its success in book stores, N&D left me as cold as these flippant, cursory notes may leave you, but I would do you a disservice to belabor it.