Mailer's best known work is The Naked and the Dead; he writes in the American tradition of macho Hemingway but without Hemingway's concise brutality.
In the Southern California resort town on Desert D'Or a crowd of Hollywood actors and actresses, directors, producers and other assorted hangers-on gather to party, do business, back-bite and swap partners. Film director Charles Eitel's career is on hold: he has been blacklisted for refusing to testify to the Committee for Subversive Activities. Ex-USAF fighter pilot and wannabe writer Sergius is determinedly blowing the $14,000 he won in a poker game. Eitel is having an affair with Elena, Producer Collie's ex-mistress, while Sergius is sleeping with Lulu, starlet and Eitel's ex-wife, who secretly marries Tony despite the fact that the Studio want her to marry gay co-star Teddy. Marion Faye, pimp, crops up from time to time.
When it was published in 1957 the slightly coy descriptions of sex (and the endless permutations of who slept with whom) led to the book being branded as shocking, filthy, degrading and perverted. Nearly sixty years later that aspect has no more power to shock. Without it the book is a somewhat rambling account of a set of rather selfish and self-justifying characters, most of whom have the leisure to sit around analysing themselves all day and party all night because they don't need to work, interspersed with some long speeches containing cod philosophy. And, because it is really difficult to care about these characters, it is difficult to commit oneself to the novel.
"When The Deer Park was first published," the blurb on the back says, "it was both hailed as a work of genius and condemned as depraved." Seen from the perspective of time it is neither. May 2013; 363 pages
- Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57