On the rewards of reading The Times Literary Supplement of February 17, 2023? (Revised)

Political Cynic comments on this once valued publication.

Title: In the ring with Mailer

Sub-title: The author’s gladiatorial contest of art

By James Marcus

Not much here, but the news that Mailer was buried in his boxing gear.

I recall reading a paperback of Mailer’s ‘An American Dream’ that I purchased at a liquor store on Long Beach Blvd. in Lynwood California. Hadn’t read much American, nor other fiction- mostly out of curiosity, allied to pure ignorance of literature of any kind. I watched too much television yet, was curious about that World of Thinkers/Writers. The wife stabbing portion of the story was perplexing…

Later I read Mailer’s ‘The Armies of the Night’ and then in 1974 Mailer review of ‘Last Tango in Paris’ ,that features Pauline Kale, in the Lead Role: I was surprised at Mailer’s ability to write comic invective, at the time I found it amusing.

A Transit to Narcissus

Norman Mailer

May 17, 1973 issue

This paragraph stands out …

We know that Spengler’s thousand-year metamorphosis from Culture to Civilization is gone, way gone, and the century required for a minor art to move from commencement to decadence is off the board. Whole fashions in film are born, thrive, and die in twenty-four months. Still! It is only a half year since Pauline Kael declared to the readers of The New Yorker that the presentation of Last Tango in Paris at the New York Film Festival on October 14, 1972, was a date which “should become a landmark in movie history—comparable to May 29, 1913—the night Le Sacre du Printemps was first performed—in music history,” and then went on to explain that the newer work had “the same kind of hypnotic excitement as the Sacre, the same primitive force, and the same jabbing, thrusting eroticism…. Bertolucci and Brando have altered the face of an art form.” Whatever could have been shown on screen to make Kael pop open for a film? “This must be the most powerfully erotic movie ever made, and it may turn out to be the most liberating movie ever made….” Could this be our own Lady Vinegar, our quintessential cruet? The first frigid of the film critics was treating us to her first public reception. Prophets of Baal, praise Kael! We had obviously no ordinary hour of cinema to contemplate.


I was at the Library over the weekend, and discovered this, at the end of one of the stacks.

I read the first chapter and skipped to the debate between Wm. F. Buckley and James Baldwin, titled ‘The Most Hated Man in America’: The Reader enters the World of the carefully refracted ‘Best Seller’, that posits the notion that Buckley and Mailer were two of the prime political actors of ‘The 60’s’. At best Buckley was a leering ‘Conservative’ gargoyle and Mailer a posturing would-be Hemingway, with a pretentious vocabulary and the mannerisms of a pugilist.

A work colleague had given me a paperback of ‘Ancient Evenings’ and I applied myself to reading it, but kept confronting Mailer’s, or his main character’s penchant for sodomy.

Political Cynic

Added February 24, 2023:

I had forgotten that I had seen Howard Hawks’ ‘Land of the Pharaohs’ script by William Faulkner, Harry Kurnitz, Jack Bloom in 1958. And had seen ‘The Egyptian’ directed by Michael Curtiz, from a script by Philip Dunne (screen play), Casey Robinson(screen play), Mika Waltari (novel) – probably at The Arden Theater in Lynwood, California, just one long block from my childhood home. Or that I had actually read portions of the novel by Waltari, as a teenager, for the sex scenes- that was a topic of discussion with my friends.

Mailer’s novel had some stiff competition from Hollywood Historical Grandiosity, pioneered by D.W. Griffith, and the windy self-advertiser Cecil B. de Mille!

P. C.

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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