Author Norman Mailer’s anthology will be published by small publishing house Skyhorse – known for championing writers who have been turned down by woke publishing houses – after Random House denied canceling the collection, saying that she had never had a contract to publish the essays.
The longtime editor of the late literary lion has been accused of slapping the anthology – which was to coincide with the author’s 100th birthday – because an underling at the publishing house objected to the title of the White Negro essay, which Mailer wrote in 1957.
The megalithic publisher, which recently clashed with the Justice Department over anti-trust issues, denied that was the case.
“It is factually incorrect that Random House has canceled an upcoming book of Norman Mailer essays. We did not have this collection under contract. Random House continues to publish much of Norman Mailer’s list.
Random House reportedly decided to scrap a new collection of Norman Mailer essays due to objections to the 1957 essay “White Negro”. Mailer, who fought in World War II, will turn 100 next January. Many of his views, though influential at the time, would be considered controversial today.
Norman Mailer first published his essay “White Negro” in 1957, in which he called for the rejection of mainstream Eisenhower-era conformity.
Mailer’s literary agent Andrew Wylie denied the project was canceled by Random House
However, Mailer’s son said he would have preferred to work with his father’s regular editor.
“He had a fantastic relationship with Penguin Random House,” John Buffalo Mailer told The New York Times. “We would have liked to do this book with them.
Mailer’s literary agent Andrew Wylie denied that Random House had pulled out of the project, but did not explain why the author’s regular publisher, which had launched a campaign to promote his work to young readers a few years ago, wouldn’t be involved.
“That’s not the point at all,” Wylie said. “There is no problem here.”
He said Penguin Random House, as it is now called after a consolidation, would continue to promote Mailer’s other works.
Skyhorse, a small independent publishing house, has recently made a name for itself for recruiting writers who have been let down by corporate publishers amid controversy.
The printer published The Case Against Impeaching Trump by Alan Dershowitz and Disloyal, the anti-Donald Trump memoir by the then president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. He also published an anti-vaxxer book by Robert Kennedy Jr titled The Real Anthony Fauci.
“Skyhorse Publishing is proud to announce that it will publish an untitled anthology of the works of Norman Mailer,” spokeswoman Kathleen Schmidt said. “A Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, Mailer is one of the most dramatic, controversial and enduring writers of his generation. Publication is scheduled for 2023, the centenary of his birth.
Best-selling author Michael Wolff was the first to report that the Mailer Centenary Project had been killed by Random House.
“With slow-motion predictability, Norman Mailer’s longtime publisher recently informed the Mailer family that he had canceled plans to publish a collection of his political writings to mark the centenary of his birth in 2023, the producer confirms of films Michael Mailer, the author’s eldest son,” Wolff wrote.
Social media lit up with tweets that sought to refute Wolff’s claim that Random House passed on the project due to objections from a junior staffer.
“Junior employees I spoke to at Penguin Random House laughed off the insinuation that one of them had the power to kill a book,” Alex Shepard wrote in the new republic.
Best-selling author Michael Wolff, who uncovered the story, wrote that the essay was the “model for much of the psycho-sexual-drug literature of the 1960s”.
But Wolff was undeterred and pointed out that the larger publisher would be preferred to the smaller independent house.
“Nobody owns logic,” he tweeted. “Obviously Random House killed the project. Obviously nobody goes to Skyhorse unless they have to. Indeed, they are now famous for publishing canceled writers. God, what gullible beasts.
Mailer’s biographer, J. Michael Lennon, was chosen to choose Mailer’s works for the collection and publisher David Ebershoff had been chosen to edit it, Wolff wrote in the pinner, a new online publication from renowned editor Janice Min.
Neither Lennon nor Ebershoff responded to requests for comment.
According to Wolff, however, the publisher said no final contract was signed for the book and therefore it was not cancelled.
“You need not search carefully through Mailer’s work to find offenses against contemporary doctrine and respectability,” Wolff wrote, calling the author’s White Negro a “psycho-sexual precursor to drugs and model for much of the psycho-sexual-drug literature that became popular in the 1960s.’
Mailer’s essay, written at the dawn of America’s beatnik era, calls for the rejection of conformity and appeals to ‘rebellious imperatives of the self’
The “white nigger” in the essay’s title is a 1950s hipster who lives for immediate gratification, or as he calls it the “burning consciousness of the present.”
Mailer compared his new philosophy to what he saw as the black American way of life.
Writer James Baldwin opposed the essay because he said it dealt with stereotypes that black people were overly sexual and violent.
The essay sparked controversy even at the time from thinkers like writer James Baldwin for trading on stereotypes of black people as operating on basic impulses of sex and violence.
Mailer, who was born on January 31, 1923, would have been 100 next year. He is considered an important post-World War II literary and left-wing political voice, but he has often flirted with controversy, and his views on masculinity and sexuality are at odds with current thinking.
He served in the Pacific during World War II, but saw little combat. His first book, The Naked and the Dead about his time in the military, ranked 51st in the Modern Library’s 100 Best English Novels of the 20th Century.
He went on to publish 11 bestselling books, including non-fiction like his account of the anti-war movement Armies of the Night, which won him a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award.
He considered himself a cultural critic and public intellectual and wrote political essays that were published in mainstream publications like Esquire.
In 1955, he co-founded Village Voice, a left-leaning weekly that still exists online today.
He also tried his hand at the cinema without much success.
Mailer was known to be the subject of legal controversy and was prone to violence. He once stabbed his wife Adele Morales, pictured here in happier times, with a penknife. She survived.
Mailer was known for his brawls and once headbutted Gore Vidal in the Green Room on Dick Cavett’s talk show. He also stabbed his wife Adele Morales with a penknife after questioning her masculinity. The injury was near fatal, but she survived and he served three years of probation for the crime.
In 1969 he ran for mayor of New York with the slogan “No more bullsh**”
Mailer told reporters at the time, “The difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m no good and I can prove it.”
Random House continues to publish Mailer’s work, including Why Are We in Vietnam?, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, and Deer Park.
In 2013, Random House embarked on a project to republish his works for a younger generation, beginning a collection of selected essays titled “Mind of an Outlaw”.
“Norman was an American original both on the page and in life,” publishing house president Gina Centrello said at the time. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to relaunch these books for a new generation.”
The cancellation of the Mailer project should be worrisome, Wolff explained, because Penguin Random House owns such a large slice of the publishing pie.
“A lack of competition among keepers leads to less choice and more limits and a narrowing of risk, taste and susceptibility, and, when the winds are high, better shelter for cowards,” writes- he. “A world without Norman Mailer – this new intellectual nanny-state – surely hurts the literary consumer.”
Penguin Random House was sued by the Department of Justice in November to block its purchase of Simon & Schuster, a rival publishing house.
“If the world’s largest book publisher is allowed to acquire one of its biggest rivals, it will have unprecedented control over this important industry,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “American authors and consumers will pay the price for this anti-competitive merger – fewer advances for authors and, ultimately, fewer books and less variety for consumers.”