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American author and journalist (1923-2007)

I have always had this very strong, call it a feeling, call it a prejudice, call it a conviction ... that the mysteries are not easily available. You have to earn entrance into them. You didn't learn things for too little. You had to pay a price. And I felt that LSD was just blasting superhighways into the mysteries. And what I really didn't like about LSD is that people who were taking it were seeming to become less and less as they took it. They got emptier and more vapid.

NORMAN MAILER, Rolling Stone, May 3, 2007

There is a no man's land between sex and love, and it alters in the night. We go to sleep convinced we are in one state, we awaken in the other, and murderous emotions patrol the ever-changing border.


Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.

NORMAN MAILER, The New York Times Book Review, Sep. 17, 1965

Writing can wreck your body. You sit there on the chair hour after hour and sweat your guts out to get a few words.

NORMAN MAILER, The New York Times, Oct. 4, 2000

Even an evil man can have principles—he can be true to his own evil, which is not always so easy.

NORMAN MAILER, The Paris Review, winter-spring 1964

Heaven and Hell make no sense if the majority of humans are a complex mixture of good and evil. There's no reason to receive a reward if you're 57/43—why sit around forever in an elevated version of Club Med? That's almost impossible to contemplate.


Great hope has no real footing unless one is willing to face into the doom that may also be on the way.


America is a hurricane, and the only people who do not hear the sound are those fortunate if incredibly stupid and smug White Protestants who live in the center, in the serene eye of the big wind.

NORMAN MAILER, "Advertisement for Games and Ends," Advertisements for Myself

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.

NORMAN MAILER, The Paris Review, Summer 2007

Revolutions are the periods of history when individuals count most.

NORMAN MAILER, Barbary Shore

I had a quick grasp of the secret to sanity — it had become the ability to hold the maximum of impossible combinations in one's mind.

NORMAN MAILER, An American Dream

A modern democracy is a tyranny whose borders are undefined; one discovers how far one can go only by traveling in a straight line until one is stopped.

NORMAN MAILER, preface, The Presidential Papers

Bright was the inner light of the last martini on my moral horizon.

NORMAN MAILER, Harlot's Ghost

I've always felt that my relationship to the United States is analogous to a marriage. I love this country. I hate it. I get angry at it. I feel close to it. I'm charmed by it. I'm repelled by it. And it's a marriage that's gone on for let's say at least 50 years of my writing life, and in the course of that, what's happened? It's gotten worse. It's not what it used to be.

NORMAN MAILER, The New York Times, Oct. 4, 2000

I don't know if I need seclusion, but I do like to be alone in a room.

NORMAN MAILER, The Paris Review, winter-spring 1964

There are four stages to marriage. First there's the affair, then there's the marriage, then children, and finally the fourth stage, without which you cannot know a woman, the divorce.

NORMAN MAILER, News summaries, Dec. 31, 1969

Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego.

NORMAN MAILER, attributed, A Writer's Time

There was that law of life so cruel and so just which demanded that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same.


You don't know a woman until you've met her in court.

NORMAN MAILER, attributed, The Book of Poisonous Quotes

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. Childhood is so protean.

NORMAN MAILER, The Paris Review, winter-spring 1964

The final purpose of art is to intensify, even, if necessary, to exacerbate, the moral consciousness of people.

NORMAN MAILER, Western Review, winter 1959

What if there are not only two nostrils, two eyes, two lobes, and so forth, but two psyches as well, and they are separately equipped? They go through life like Siamese twins inside one person.... They can be just a little different, like identical twins, or they can be vastly different, like good and evil.

NORMAN MAILER, Harlot's Ghost

One thing I've learned in all these years is not to make love when you really don't feel it; there's probably nothing worse you can do to yourself than that.

NORMAN MAILER, attributed, Norman Mailer: The Man and His Work

Hip is the sophistication of the wise primitive in a giant jungle.

NORMAN MAILER, "The White Negro," Dissent, summer 1957

Ultimately a hero is a man who would argue with the gods, and so awakens devils to contest his vision.

NORMAN MAILER, preface, The Presidential Papers

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.

NORMAN MAILER, attributed, The Writer's Quotation Book

The horror of the Twentieth Century was the size of each new event, and the paucity of its reverberation.

NORMAN MAILER, A Fire on the Moon

I don't think life is absurd. I think we are all here for a huge purpose. I think we shrink from the immensity of the purpose we are here for.

NORMAN MAILER, American Way, Jun. 15, 1995

We are all so guilty at the way we have allowed the world around us to become more ugly and tasteless every year that we surrender to terror and steep ourselves in it.

NORMAN MAILER, In the Belly of the Beast

We live in a time which has created the art of the absurd. It is our art. It contains happenings, Pop art, camp, a theater of the absurd... Do we have the art because the absurd is the patina of waste...? Or are we face to face with a desperate or most rational effort from the deepest resources of the unconscious of us all to rescue civilization from the pit and plague of its bedding?

NORMAN MAILER, Cannibals and Christians

Each day a few more lies eat into the seed with which we are born, little institutional lies from the print of newspapers, the shock waves of television, and the sentimental cheats of the movie screen.

NORMAN MAILER, "First Advertisement for Myself," Advertisements for Myself

Witches have no wit, said the magician who was weak. Hula, hula, said the witches.

NORMAN MAILER, An American Dream

You can indulge your righteous rage but the things it comes out of are pretty cheap. The trick is to make yourself an instrument of your own policy. Whether you like it or not, that's the highest effectiveness man has achieved.

NORMAN MAILER, The Naked and the Dead

Harsh words live in the dungeon of the heart.

NORMAN MAILER, The Gospel According to the Son

If a person is not talented enough to be a novelist, not smart enough to be a lawyer, and his hands are too shaky to perform operations, he becomes a journalist.

NORMAN MAILER, attributed, The Snark Handbook

I am convinced the most unfortunate people are those who would make an art of love. It sours other effort. Of all artists, they are certainly the most wretched.

NORMAN MAILER, The Man Who Studied Yoga

I never saw love as luck, as that gift from the gods which put everything else in place, and allowed you to succeed. No, I saw love as reward. One could find it only after one's virtue, or one's courage, or self-sacrifice, or generosity, or loss, has succeeded in stirring the power of creation.

NORMAN MAILER, Harlot's Ghost

I am not here only so that the blind might see, but to teach those who thought they could see that they are blind.

NORMAN MAILER, The Gospel According to the Son

My feeling is that there’s no better explanation for Hitler than that he was inspired by the devil, as Jesus Christ was inspired by God. If people will believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God then I don’t see why you can’t see that Hitler is the offspring of the devil. It’s the simplest explanation. There’s no other.

NORMAN MAILER, The Paris Review, Summer 2007

Madness is locked beneath. It goes into tissues, is swallowed by the cells. The cells go mad. Cancer is their flag. Cancer is the growth of madness denied.

NORMAN MAILER, An American Dream

Mysteries are irritated by facts.

NORMAN MAILER, Superman Comes to the Supermarket

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