Randy Boyagoda at the Financial Times:
Obviously, Norman Mailer should be reviewing the authorised biography of Norman Mailer. Were he not six years in the grave, he would certainly accept the assignment. And based on the evidence in J Michael Lennon’s impressive effort to recount Mailer’s multitudinous and combustible life story, here’s how that scenario would likely play out: asked for 1,500 words, Mailer submits 150,000. Upon learning that this newspaper is unwilling to devote its entire Saturday edition to his writing about himself, he is shocked and outraged and demands (successfully) that his agent secure a six-figure book deal so his work could be published in its rightful fullness. He uses most of that money to pay down his latest overdue tax bill; the rest goes in alimony instalments for his ex-wives.
He then flies from New York to London with a documentary film crew in tow. Cameras rolling, he pushes his way into the editorial offices, roaring for an explanation as to why his piece was rejected. The meeting leads to some combination of the following: a fist-fight, a drunken reconciliation, a drunken fist-fight, a one-night stand, a press conference. Then Mailer returns to the US to work on the documentary of his trip to London, and on the manuscript of his 150,000-word autobiographical impressions of his authorised biography. When these matters and a few dozen others are dealt with, he at last returns to the latest million-word novel he’s writing. This one concerns a barrel-chested, curly-haired Paleolithic warrior-fertility god’s endless battles against the legions of cowards and prudes arrayed against him.