Hot Best Seller

The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing

Availability: Ready to download

“Writing is spooky,” according to Norman Mailer. “There is no routine of an office to keep you going, only the blank page each morning, and you never know where your words are coming from, those divine words.” In The Spooky Art, Mailer discusses with signature candor the rewards and trials of the writing life, and recommends the tools to navigate it. Addressing the reader “Writing is spooky,” according to Norman Mailer. “There is no routine of an office to keep you going, only the blank page each morning, and you never know where your words are coming from, those divine words.” In The Spooky Art, Mailer discusses with signature candor the rewards and trials of the writing life, and recommends the tools to navigate it. Addressing the reader in a conversational tone, he draws on the best of more than fifty years of his own criticism, advice, and detailed observations about the writer’s craft.   Praise for The Spooky Art   “The Spooky Art shows Mailer’s brave willingness to take on demanding forms and daunting issues. . . . He has been a thoughtful and stylish witness to the best and worst of the American century.”—The Boston Globe   “At his best—as artists should be judged—Mailer is indispensable, an American treasure. There is enough of his best in this book for it to be welcomed with gratitude.”—The Washington Post   “[The Spooky Art] should nourish and inform—as well as entertain—almost any serious reader of the novel.”—Baltimore Sun “The richest book ever written about the writer’s subconscious.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer   “Striking . . . entrancingly frank.”—Entertainment Weekly   Praise for Norman Mailer   “[Norman Mailer] loomed over American letters longer and larger than any other writer of his generation.”—The New York Times   “A writer of the greatest and most reckless talent.”—The New Yorker   “A devastatingly alive and original creative mind.”—Life   “Mailer is fierce, courageous, and reckless and nearly everything he writes has sections of headlong brilliance.”—The New York Review of Books   “The largest mind and imagination [in modern] American literature . . . Unlike just about every American writer since Henry James, Mailer has managed to grow and become richer in wisdom with each new book.”—Chicago Tribune   “Mailer is a master of his craft. His language carries you through the story like a leaf on a stream.”—The Cincinnati Post From the Hardcover edition.


Compare

“Writing is spooky,” according to Norman Mailer. “There is no routine of an office to keep you going, only the blank page each morning, and you never know where your words are coming from, those divine words.” In The Spooky Art, Mailer discusses with signature candor the rewards and trials of the writing life, and recommends the tools to navigate it. Addressing the reader “Writing is spooky,” according to Norman Mailer. “There is no routine of an office to keep you going, only the blank page each morning, and you never know where your words are coming from, those divine words.” In The Spooky Art, Mailer discusses with signature candor the rewards and trials of the writing life, and recommends the tools to navigate it. Addressing the reader in a conversational tone, he draws on the best of more than fifty years of his own criticism, advice, and detailed observations about the writer’s craft.   Praise for The Spooky Art   “The Spooky Art shows Mailer’s brave willingness to take on demanding forms and daunting issues. . . . He has been a thoughtful and stylish witness to the best and worst of the American century.”—The Boston Globe   “At his best—as artists should be judged—Mailer is indispensable, an American treasure. There is enough of his best in this book for it to be welcomed with gratitude.”—The Washington Post   “[The Spooky Art] should nourish and inform—as well as entertain—almost any serious reader of the novel.”—Baltimore Sun “The richest book ever written about the writer’s subconscious.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer   “Striking . . . entrancingly frank.”—Entertainment Weekly   Praise for Norman Mailer   “[Norman Mailer] loomed over American letters longer and larger than any other writer of his generation.”—The New York Times   “A writer of the greatest and most reckless talent.”—The New Yorker   “A devastatingly alive and original creative mind.”—Life   “Mailer is fierce, courageous, and reckless and nearly everything he writes has sections of headlong brilliance.”—The New York Review of Books   “The largest mind and imagination [in modern] American literature . . . Unlike just about every American writer since Henry James, Mailer has managed to grow and become richer in wisdom with each new book.”—Chicago Tribune   “Mailer is a master of his craft. His language carries you through the story like a leaf on a stream.”—The Cincinnati Post From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    “Just as a fighter has to feel that he possesses the right to do physical damage to another man, so a writer has to be ready to take chances with his readers’ lives.” ― Norman Mailer, The Spooky Art With The Spooky Art seasoned novelist Norman Mailer, by certain accounts “the American Tolstoy,” a fact he doesn’t mind repeating in these pages, offers his hard won wisdom and sage advice on writing and everything else that touches on the literary; correction, make that touches on subjects as broad a “Just as a fighter has to feel that he possesses the right to do physical damage to another man, so a writer has to be ready to take chances with his readers’ lives.” ― Norman Mailer, The Spooky Art With The Spooky Art seasoned novelist Norman Mailer, by certain accounts “the American Tolstoy,” a fact he doesn’t mind repeating in these pages, offers his hard won wisdom and sage advice on writing and everything else that touches on the literary; correction, make that touches on subjects as broad as world history, philosophy, psychology, religion and, last but hardly least, life and death. Perhaps to be expected, Norman Mailer being Norman Mailer, an enormous spotlight is also cast on America and the American dream. And a very up close and personal book it is – Norman, age eighty, doesn’t hold back in revealing oodles of his professional life as a writer and a good measure of his personal and social life. But he is clear about one thing in particular: if you are a novelist (or aspiring novelist), this book is best read if you have a fair amount of experience and success in publishing under your belt. He acknowledges that he simply says too much about the drawbacks and pitfalls of being a novelist to benefit the beginner. Some things are better discovered on one’s own. Rather than making any overarching or general observations, below are a number of juicy quotes from the book specifically addressing the business of writing (I'll leave it to others to comment on Norman's ideas on life, death and various other big topics). Keeping in the spirit of Norman’s very personal slant, I will share my own personal experience as part of my accompanying comments. “So I learned to write by writing. As I once calculated, I must have written more than half a million words before I came to The Naked and the Dead, and a large fraction of those words was in the several drafts of this novel.” Half a million words is roughly one thousand pages. The big first lesson for any would-be novelist or would-be writer, for that matter, is lots of practice. This amounts to at least an hour or two a day. In his book On Writing, Stephen King says much the same thing. For myself, when I began writing reviews five years ago, I made the commitment to read and write every day, finishing at least one or two reviews each and every week. Turns out, this was easy – and for a simple, clear-cut reason: I love reading and I love writing reviews! Love is the key. Without passion, real passion, a fire in the gut, sitting down at your writing desk quickly becomes an uphill battle. “Every now and again I would have the nightmare of wondering what would happen if all the reviews were bad, as bad as for Barbary Shore. I would try to tell myself that could not happen, but I was not certain.” What surprised me is how Norman Mailer put such an emphasis on reviews and reviewers of his books - all his emotion anticipating the reviewers waiting for his next published book “on the other side of the hill.” He admits his constant battle with celebrity and fame and concern for what reviewers would say resulted in large measure from the tremendous success of his first published novel The Naked and the Dead, a book that made it to the best seller list when he was a young man of twenty-five. Norman Mailer wanted to be the next Leo Tolstoy or Thomas Mann. He really only has time and energy for novelists and novels that aspire to such great heights. One thing that came through in the book: Mailer values the novel far over other forms of literature such as poetry, drama, short story and essay. As far as Norman is concerned, the novelist is king of the hill, way out in front of writers working in any other form. However, according to Norman, the price a novelist pays is great in terms of personal health and the grind involved in such a long-term literary project. Poetry and other shorter forms appeal to writers who are more aristocratic in temperament; novelists, on the other hand, require a work-a-day, grind-it-out, blue-collar mentality. He then goes on to say how poets and writers of short stories have a Muse but a novelist has a Bitch, or rather, the Bitch. Perhaps this is why I stick with writing reviews - given the choice, I’d much rather be an aristocrat inspired by a muse than a blue-collar drudge slugging it out with the Bitch. "A few weeks later we came back to the city, and I took some mescaline. Maybe one dies a little with the poison of mescaline in the blood. At the end of a long and private trip which no quick remark should try to describe, the book of The Dear Park floated into mind, and I sat up, reached through a pleasure garden of velveted light to find the tree of a pencil and the bed of a notebook, and brought them to union together." Mailer writes about his own experience with alcohol, tobacco and various drugs. Three quick strokes about his experiences with these various substances: at one point, his quitting smoking was a real challenge since he felt his whole writerly self was a tobacco-fueled self; he discovered marijuana expanded his senses but contracted his mind; he concludes drinking liquor while writing is a practice best avoided. As for my experience, I’ve never been a drinker, smoker or user of drugs but I do have a suggestion for a loss of writerly energy: a good night sleep! And then take advantage by hitting your writing desk first thing in the morning. “Being a novelist, I want to know every world. I would never close myself off to a subject unless it’s truly repulsive to me. While one can never take one’s imperviousness to corruption for granted, it is still important to have some idea of how the world works. What ruins most writers of talent is that they don’t get enough experience, so their novels tend to develop a certain paranoid perfection. That is almost never as good as the rough edge of reality. (Franz Kafka immaculately excepted!)” I didn’t start writing until I was in my late thirties - no problem with enough experience. And when I wrote my one-and-only novel (published by a small press, long out-of-print), I quickly discovered, in my case, novel-writing was a most unsatisfying creative project. My advice: life is short – it is best to find the literary form that really works for you and go with it. For me, years ago it was prose poems; nowadays, writing reviews. “Some talented people feel they still haven’t read enough to sit down and write. That is paralyzing.” Mailer expands on this, how, after a certain point, a novelist is best keeping away from other novelists, especially contemporaries. I can appreciate how overexposure can be paralyzing. Fortunately, as a reviewer, one can’t read enough - the more books a reviewer reads the better. I would never want to be the type of writer where I would have to limit my reading in any way whatsoever. “Among the authors discussed, some in reasonable depth, others in no more than passing comment, are Hemmingway, Faulkner, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Updike, Cheever, Roth, Doctorow, Capote, Vidal, Bellow, Heller, Borges, James Jones, Styron, Chekhov, James T. Farrell, Henry Adams, Henry James, Garcia Marquez, Melville, Proust, Beckett, Dreiser, Graham Greene, William Burroughs, Scott Fitzgerald, Nelson Algren, Kurt Vonnegut, Dwight MacDonald, Toni Morrison, Thomas Wolfe, Tom Wolfe, Jean Malaquais, Don DeLillo, Henry Miller, John Steinbeck, Christopher Isherwood, William Kennedy, Joan Didion, Kate Millett, Jonathan Franzen, Ralph Ellison, Joyce Carol Oates, John Dos Passos, D. H. Lawrence, Mark Twain, Freud, and Marx.” Norman analyzes and passes judgement on many writers and their novels, many literary schools and their historical influences and many of the ups and downs on the American literary scene, past and present. Quite entertaining and informative. I highly recommend reading Norman's book. Special thanks to Goodreads friend Mark Hebwood from London for pointing out this fine Norman Mailer book to me. “Metaphor reveals a writer’s true grasp of life. To the degree that you have no metaphor, you have not yet lived much of a life.” -- Norman Mailer, The Spooky Art

  2. 5 out of 5

    Charles Matthews

    My review ran in the San Jose Mercury News on February 2, 2003: As a student, I once found myself part of a group trying to make conversation with a writer-in-residence, Bernard Malamud. The talk reached several dead ends before Malamud mentioned that he had been asked to submit nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Were there any American writers we thought worthy? ''Well,'' I said hesitantly, ''what about Norman Mailer?'' There were some groans and hisses from other students, but also My review ran in the San Jose Mercury News on February 2, 2003: As a student, I once found myself part of a group trying to make conversation with a writer-in-residence, Bernard Malamud. The talk reached several dead ends before Malamud mentioned that he had been asked to submit nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Were there any American writers we thought worthy? ''Well,'' I said hesitantly, ''what about Norman Mailer?'' There were some groans and hisses from other students, but also a glimmer of assent from Malamud before someone spoke up to suggest, more presciently, Saul Bellow. This was a long time ago, when a Nobel for Mailer was not implausible. He had recently published one of his best novels, the savage ''Why Are We in Vietnam?'' and he had won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction for ''Armies of the Night.'' With their examination of American values and attitudes in a time of crisis, these books had the kind of engagement with politics and society that the Nobel committee likes to honor. But Mailer's reputation would fall -- thanks in part to a silly book about Marilyn Monroe and the goofy anti-feminism of ''The Prisoner of Sex'' -- and rise -- with another Pulitzer for ''The Executioner's Song'' -- and fall again. Except for the reviewers who were paid to read it, I don't know anyone who made it through the thousand-plus pages of ''Ancient Evenings.'' Mailer turned 80 on Friday, and the shadows are gathering for his generation, the one that dominated American letters in the years immediately following World War II. Malamud, John Cheever, Ralph Ellison, Walker Percy,James Baldwin and Truman Capote are gone. Bellow and Arthur Miller are 87. William Styron has fallen silent, and J.D. Salinger hasn't been seen for years. Of the more visible survivors of Mailer's generation, Kurt Vonnegut published his last novel in 1997, though he has recently shown up in a TV commercial. And Gore Vidal is more intent on being a political gadfly than a literary figure. (Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor aside, this may have been the last generation of American writers that looks like a men's club.) ''I'm now eighty, but some people still regard me as a wild man,'' writes Mailer in his new book -- published to celebrate his own birthday. ''Even at my peak, that was only five to ten percent of my nature. The rest was work.'' Still, that ''five to ten percent'' looms large in our consciousness of Mailer. Perhaps no American writer since Walt Whitman has had a more assertive ego. ''Do I embarrass myself?'' Mailer has often seemed to be saying. ''Very well then, I embarrass myself.'' He has certainly done so, starting in 1960 with a brawl, fueled by drugs and drink, in which he stabbed his second wife. (She declined to press charges but got revenge by writing a tattling memoir of their marriage; he spent some time in a mental hospital.) He ran for mayor of New York City in 1969, on a platform that advocated statehood for the city, but the press never took his campaign seriously, especially when Mailer got drunk at a fundraiser and hurled obscenities at his audience. Cautionary tale There were numerous other scuffles and dust-ups -- ''One relief to getting older,'' he says, ''is that I no longer have to square my shoulders every time I go into a bar'' -- with the result that Mailer's life becomes a cautionary tale about the hazards of celebrity. He admits as much: ''After 'The Naked and the Dead,' I had assumed I would work on large, collective novels about American life, books that required venturing out to get experience, but my celebrity took away much of the necessary anonymity I needed personally for that.'' ''The Spooky Art'' is a pastiche of reprinted interviews, essays, articles and prefaces, along with some new material, focused more or less on the craft of writing and the life of the writer. As Mailer's introduction makes clear, it's not a how-to book (unless you're looking for a book on how to be Norman Mailer). The best parts of it are Mailer's observations on writers like Tolstoy, D.H. Lawrence and Henry Miller, and a wonderful appreciation of ''Huckleberry Finn.'' But though the voice of the pugnacious Mailer in his prime is heard throughout the book, the cumulative effect is of a man who sees his career drawing to its close and who is haunted by his failure to engage the culture. In February last year, he told a group that he hadn't yet read Jonathan Franzen's ''The Corrections,'' a book then being touted as one of those ''large, collective novels about American life'' that Mailer in his youth had aspired to spend his career writing. Mailer had looked at the blurbs for the book and noticed that of the writers quoted in praise of it, ''most of them were of Franzen's generation. Updike wasn't there; not Bellow, not Roth; I wasn't there. . . . Apparently, 'The Corrections' is the book of a generation that wants to wipe the slate clean and offer a new literary movement. I think the younger writers are sick of Roth, Bellow, Updike, and myself the way we were sick of Hemingway and Faulkner.'' 'Corrections' critique Now he adds an update: He has read ''The Corrections,'' and maybe it's just as well Franzen didn't ask him for a blurb. The book, he observes, ''is too full of language, even as the nouveaux riches are too full of money. . . . Franzen is an intellectual dredging machine. . . . He may well have the highest IQ of any American novelist writing today, but unhappily, he rewards us with more work than exhilaration, since rare is any page in 'The Corrections' that could not be five to ten lines shorter.'' And he concludes, ''Bellow and Company can still rest on their old laurels, I think I am almost ready to say, 'Alas!' '' ''Literature,'' Mailer asserts elsewhere in the book, ''has been ground down in the second half of the twentieth century.'' Just as Shakespeare forged the consciousness of England, Joyce and Yeats created an identity for Ireland and Faulkner enabled us to imagine the South. ''If you ask who has had that kind of influence today in America, I'd say Madonna.'' The serious novel has failed to explain America to itself, Mailer laments, and in its place the job has been done by popular culture, the mass media, journalism and ''the worst of organized religion.'' As Louis Menand observed in an essay reprinted in his recent collection, ''American Studies,'' Mailer has remained in some ways trapped in the 1950s, a period that Mailer characterizes as ''that huge collective cowardice which was the aftermath of the Second World War.'' Now, at the beginning of a new century, Mailer scents the apocalypse as strongly as any fundamentalist awaiting the Rapture, and he's determined to preach at us -- a most American impulse for a writer, since our literature has its roots in the sermons of the Puritan fathers and the evangelicals of the Great Awakening: ''Nothing less than a fresh vision of the ongoing and conceivably climactic war between God and the Devil can slake our moral thirst now that we have passed through the incomprehensibilities of the last century.'' It's possible that Mailer's pessimism about literature, his despair that its role has been assumed by what he regards as lesser media, stems from a regret that he let himself become fodder for the media, damaging his ability to advance his art. In the final paragraphs of the book he shakes himself out of a ''prodigiously gloomy'' assessment of the state of literature, and squints at the horizon in search of hope. He has assembled this book, he tells us, out of the expectation that ''novelists will continue to appear, will write better and better, and may yet . . . give life to our beleaguered earth, our would-be great society dwelling still in the bonds of misperception.'' There's something admirable, even endearing, about Mailer in full harangue, sounding like he's delivering the Nobel Prize speech he has never been invited to give. It's a voice we don't hear from the current generation of writers, steeped as they are in postmodern ironies. And that realization should inspire in us a sense of loss.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Peycho Kanev

    One does not simply just read Norman Mailer - one devours him. Great work again from the Master!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cannon Roberts

    This is not a book on writing. It's a collection of random, mostly tedious and arrogant, thoughts Mailer had for like three years then duped someone into publishing. I could talk to a drunk MFA student for an hour and get the same insights. This is not a book on writing. It's a collection of random, mostly tedious and arrogant, thoughts Mailer had for like three years then duped someone into publishing. I could talk to a drunk MFA student for an hour and get the same insights.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    This had interesting bits but a lot of it was really boring (chapters on the unconscious, film, television, and the occult, for example) and I skimmed about one third of the book. Just like with his fiction, his thoughts on writing, on himself, on other authors, can be fascinating, or not so much. Some of the material here had been published elsewhere, and some material is new. It's presented not chronologically but thematically, so a particular chapter will bring in snippets decades old as well This had interesting bits but a lot of it was really boring (chapters on the unconscious, film, television, and the occult, for example) and I skimmed about one third of the book. Just like with his fiction, his thoughts on writing, on himself, on other authors, can be fascinating, or not so much. Some of the material here had been published elsewhere, and some material is new. It's presented not chronologically but thematically, so a particular chapter will bring in snippets decades old as well as very recent. The only way you know what's what is by referring to the endnotes. He likes writers who do it big. Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky seem to be his favorites. He admires some things about Bellow, but Bellow has limitations. His thoughts on Jonathan Franzen were quite interesting. There are some chapters on the mechanics of writing, for example, using the first person vs. the third person.

  6. 5 out of 5

    R.

    Norman Mailer, author of the acclaimed vampire trilogy, Naked and the Dead, Armies of the Night and Ancient Evenings gives tips on the art of writing spooky literature, even as he weighs in with his two cents on Fake News and the eternal Tolstoy vs. Dostoevsky debate. Mailer also thinks Jonathan Franzen spends too much time Internet surfing in his own private"Wonkville Hollow", and that rather than waiting to be ethereally kissed by The Muse, a proper novelist should "make the bitch moan". That' Norman Mailer, author of the acclaimed vampire trilogy, Naked and the Dead, Armies of the Night and Ancient Evenings gives tips on the art of writing spooky literature, even as he weighs in with his two cents on Fake News and the eternal Tolstoy vs. Dostoevsky debate. Mailer also thinks Jonathan Franzen spends too much time Internet surfing in his own private"Wonkville Hollow", and that rather than waiting to be ethereally kissed by The Muse, a proper novelist should "make the bitch moan". That's Mailer, for you. Took me about twenty days to read this, off and on, as Mailer sometimes goes off on some weird tangents in the middle of his essays. Almost as if he walked away from his typewriter, went and drank a psychedelic Mr. Hyde formula, and returned to his desk in muddy-bloody cloak with a rakishly angled punched-up trampled top-hat and tapped the keys like a sadistic surgeon locked in alone with a frozen-in-a-scream corpse in a post-apocalyptic operating theater at the edge of Interzone.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    All right if you can stand the humility.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    too much about himself. not enough about writing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    There were parts of this book that were really insightful, but it was so rambling and self-indulgent that I found myself skipping several large chunks.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Raul Clement

    Rambling and pointless in places, interesting in others.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ted Scofield

    As both a writer and a reader, I found this book neither helpful nor interesting. I suppose if one is already a huger Mailer fan, it would be a fine read, but I regretted opening it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mark Buchignani

    The Spooky Art, by Norman Mailer, purports to be a how-to manual for young novelists (or at least new ones), and sets out in this direction, first with analysis of his own (mostly early) work in an “if-I-knew-then-what-I-knew-now” sort of way. Interesting to hear the author critique his own stuff, but he’s also setting the stage for later aspects and for the thrust of the monograph. He also includes appropriate teaching chapters, such as Best-Sellers; Reviews, Publicity, and Success; Hazards; Sty The Spooky Art, by Norman Mailer, purports to be a how-to manual for young novelists (or at least new ones), and sets out in this direction, first with analysis of his own (mostly early) work in an “if-I-knew-then-what-I-knew-now” sort of way. Interesting to hear the author critique his own stuff, but he’s also setting the stage for later aspects and for the thrust of the monograph. He also includes appropriate teaching chapters, such as Best-Sellers; Reviews, Publicity, and Success; Hazards; Style; and First Person Versus Third Person. These are all well and good, but they come across as required material, placed in this volume to perhaps qualify the book as instructional, though when he veers into psychology, his discourse covers subject matter less well-trodden. In particular, the care and feeding of the unconscious opens a window into Mailer’s own thoughts and methods, which bookends well his own literary struggles, in part due to anxiety, drug use, and slackening productivity. These first sections form an overview of things to think about in conjunction with writing, illustrated using his own fiction as examples. This is generally entertaining, though of unclear value to the new novelist, because the information is more of the form “consider this” and not “do this” or “try that.” One noteworthy aspect is he seems to say the higher the quality of the work the less likely it will be commercially successful. Or is it that quality writing takes much longer and publishers don’t want to wait? Or that best sellers are assembled relatively quickly, with less complex plots, less sophisticated prose, and fewer pages? One of these? All of these? As if offering an example, he calls attention to the shortcomings of his own best-seller, his first novel, The Naked and the Dead. All of the above given and said, Mailer is much more interested in comparing his art to others and in critique and analysis of the output of journalists (whom he doesn’t value very highly) and of painters and film makers and of Giants (his word). It is there his primary focus comes into view: by spending much energy analyzing classic works, he indirectly places his own among them. How could one criticize the accomplishments of Tolstoy or Twain or Henry Miller or Faulkner or Hemmingway or Lawrence without being skilled enough to have produced equally-compelling efforts? Or so he implies, without stating it outright. Though The Spooky Art bills itself as a “how-to” for inexperienced novelists, in reality it turns into a survey of the author’s own fiction and that of successful and well-regarded competitors, as there is a competitive thread here: Norman Mailer vs. the rest of the literary world. Into the mix the endpapers explain that much of this material was drawn from years ago. He has compiled it into a coherent whole. An interesting achievement, effectively spanning decades of his life. But in the end, what shines through as vital is that this man, this well-known and well-regarded individual, in fact loves to write and loves to be a writer among writers. It is as if he, being a club member, is qualified to expound on foibles, failures, and wondrous successes of other men of letters, as he, being one himself, is fully qualified to do so. In conclusion, read the books and authors he lists. And perhaps read Mailer as well. Do so and he will smile having succeeded in life and in this volume. In short, The Spooky Art is a good read, and an unexpected one, but worth the time and effort to complete.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Church

    I’ve read many books on the craft of writing. The most interesting ones are memoir types, the sort of books that don’t deal just with the mechanics of writing, publishing, marketing, training, etc., but that examine the psyche of the writer, the struggles and pains of writing a book and creating art as your life’s work. And quite frankly I don’t have the stomach to read a book about writing by a writer I have never heard of. I want to hear war stories and advice from the masters, the heroes of t I’ve read many books on the craft of writing. The most interesting ones are memoir types, the sort of books that don’t deal just with the mechanics of writing, publishing, marketing, training, etc., but that examine the psyche of the writer, the struggles and pains of writing a book and creating art as your life’s work. And quite frankly I don’t have the stomach to read a book about writing by a writer I have never heard of. I want to hear war stories and advice from the masters, the heroes of the trade, not those who are writing drab how-to books in order to make a dollar. The Spooky Art is a wonderful example of the former, a book that is essentially about the art of writing, of creating story, and being an author, but is not written for novices that will probably never finish that first manuscript, but for the true lover of beautiful writ, the soul that would write regardless of monetary compensation. This was a memoir about battling to finish a book, bleeding inside over characters, and loving women in between. In short, it’s real, and doesn't pander. My favorite portions are regurgitations of old literary interviews that reveal things about the author that no amount of autobiographical introspection would likely set forth. Mailer talks about being great, about being terrible, emotionally rudderless, and about writing about lovers. It’s amusing and highly intelligent prose. Mailer also takes to reviewing a great many authors and works, and though his insight is usually interesting and on point, he tends to belabor things a tad. We really don't need such long explanations of why a certain plot in a certain obscure book is unironic and superfluous to the serious reader. Not that he’s wrong, but let's maybe save these analyses for literary magazines or newspaper articles. The content is still strong, it just seems disappointingly tangential. Truth be told this book was my first foray into reading Mailer, and I was greatly satisfied. Like any good book, it forces you to return to the author’s other works in search of similar greatness.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    The books starts out with a satisfying overview of Mailer's career, told confidentially and confessionally with a reasoned mix of pride and careful modesty that eventually evinces distrust, as if Mailer has invited you into his home and noticing small details betraying artificiality, dustless corners and off-scale windows, styrofoam columns and perhaps a ceiling painted to resemble the sky, maybe like an Epcot Center boulevard or a Las Vegas restaurant, you ask the obvious question does this old The books starts out with a satisfying overview of Mailer's career, told confidentially and confessionally with a reasoned mix of pride and careful modesty that eventually evinces distrust, as if Mailer has invited you into his home and noticing small details betraying artificiality, dustless corners and off-scale windows, styrofoam columns and perhaps a ceiling painted to resemble the sky, maybe like an Epcot Center boulevard or a Las Vegas restaurant, you ask the obvious question does this old Jew live on a movie set? and the answer comes like an unexpected sexual advance that actually the guy doesn't live here at all. All the while Norman uses his cleverness to disguise the ruse, you're convinced easily that he's more intelligent than you'll ever be, in this life or the next, and so you go along and excuse his overly polished style that reads like shellac on the faux-painted marble of his erudition. And the man throws you scraps of his genius often enough that forgiveness becomes an automatic reflex and ultimately a new personality has been seduced into the room through the holes of your own self-doubt and aspiration and pretense and maybe you've become a little bit like Norman Mailer and is that really such a bad thing? You're not well-read enough to question the man's opinions on literature and so you defer to him like you would your boss on a business trip, all the while wishing the guy could just be normal and honest and share a beer or two from his actual fridge in his actual kitchen in his actual home. You can tell Mailer's been too famous for too long and that there's nothing left at the core of the old man but the organizing principle decoding impressions into sentences and then onto the page next to wanton crumbles of baby carrots and orbital coffee-stains. He's something more and less than human like most true celebrities but being a writer the stink is caustic like cigarette smoke and the more you read the less nauseous you get until eventually the next breath is better than the last. Read the book it's very good.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

    I enjoyed this quite a bit -- much more than I've enjoyed most of Mailer's fiction, honestly. Mr. Mailer's career arc is fairly unique in that he became a nationally famous author at a young age -- and for a book that, by his own admission, was amateurish in parts. Still, The Naked and the Dead was a novel that the country needed at the time, and Mailer was lucky/talented enough to take advantage. Of course, delivering a follow-up without the benefit of sure-to-interest material was another animal I enjoyed this quite a bit -- much more than I've enjoyed most of Mailer's fiction, honestly. Mr. Mailer's career arc is fairly unique in that he became a nationally famous author at a young age -- and for a book that, by his own admission, was amateurish in parts. Still, The Naked and the Dead was a novel that the country needed at the time, and Mailer was lucky/talented enough to take advantage. Of course, delivering a follow-up without the benefit of sure-to-interest material was another animal entirely. Mailer's account of this struggle, as recounted in The Spooky Art, is frank, self-aware, and admirable in its probity. Spooky Art meanders a bit through the second hundred pages but reading everything isn't necessary. There are enough nuggets here that a reward is never far off. One thing I found to be particularly interesting was Mailer's approach to plot -- namely that he doesn't start with a concrete idea of an ending -- he lets 'the characters decide' their fates. He says something along the lines of: 'having an ending in mind from the start is constricting and leads to false actions for characters who, unlike real people, are then trying to reach a pre-determined end that's been mapped out for them.' Contrast that with John Irving, who I recently heard speak , and who writes his endings first. I recall him openly musing about how doing otherwise would even be possible, along the lines of: "how can one foreshadow if one doesn't know what's going to happen?" The moral of the story: there's really no 'right' way to write. Ya just gotta figure out what works for you.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    I'm normally not a fan of greatest-hits aphorisms patched together to provide a new revenue stream for its author. But it's a pretty good quilt! The first part will be more near and dear for everyone -- basically Mailer's thoughts on writing arranged according to theme. Argue with it, sure, but you won't be bored. Less adroitly stitched together is the second half, in which Mailer is allowed to grab the mic to pontificate on less intriguing corollary topics (Film, The Occult, Television) in more I'm normally not a fan of greatest-hits aphorisms patched together to provide a new revenue stream for its author. But it's a pretty good quilt! The first part will be more near and dear for everyone -- basically Mailer's thoughts on writing arranged according to theme. Argue with it, sure, but you won't be bored. Less adroitly stitched together is the second half, in which Mailer is allowed to grab the mic to pontificate on less intriguing corollary topics (Film, The Occult, Television) in more long-winded ways.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cari

    Part One was strong and moved along quickly, even held my attention long past the time of night when I should have given up trying to read coherently. Part Two, unfortunately, did not, dragging interminably. I found myself skimming through quite a bit of the second half, until I got the section regarding influential writers, which redeemed Part Two somewhat and allowed Mailer to end on a higher note.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael Berish

    What can I say? It's Mailer. Very erudite,but he has a tendency to ramble off the subject of "thoughts on writing" to famous people he has met and his experiences in life. What can I say? It's Mailer. Very erudite,but he has a tendency to ramble off the subject of "thoughts on writing" to famous people he has met and his experiences in life.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    The horse's mouth It has been many years since I have read Norman Mailer. He made a sensational literary debut with the publication of his World War II novel, The Naked and the Dead in 1948. Since then he has been among the most celebrated writers, and by his own estimation one of America's greatest novelists, although I believe he still realizes that he has yet to fulfill his life-long ambition to write the so-called Great American Novel. (Actually I think Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain prec The horse's mouth It has been many years since I have read Norman Mailer. He made a sensational literary debut with the publication of his World War II novel, The Naked and the Dead in 1948. Since then he has been among the most celebrated writers, and by his own estimation one of America's greatest novelists, although I believe he still realizes that he has yet to fulfill his life-long ambition to write the so-called Great American Novel. (Actually I think Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain preceded his efforts here with respectively, The Scarlet Letter and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.) This is not the first time Mailer has written on the art of writing. During a period beginning after the publication of his third novel, The Deer Park in 1954 until he returned to the form in 1965 with An American Dream, Mailer wrote nonfiction almost exclusively, and in my opinion became a literary star because of the transition. I recall his first book-length nonfiction venture, Advertisements for Myself (1959), in which in addition to shamelessly tooting his own horn, Mailer also gave advice on how to write effectively, and of course on how to be a literary lion. I thought at the time it was his best work. In a sense he is like others of his time--Gore Vidal comes to mind--literary men who made the transition from novelists (a dying male breed because of a dying male readership) to interpreters and critics of the mass culture even while remaining true to their first love. Mailer followed up his successes with dozens of books, including more novels along with the various nonfiction works about people (Marilyn Monroe, Picasso, Lee Harvey Oswald, etc.), things and events (Of a Fire on the Moon; The Executioner's Song), especially political events, Miami and the Siege of Chicago; The Armies of the Night, etc. As always his work is characterized by a terrific energy and an obsessive devotion to Words on Paper. I seem to recall reading somewhere that he only felt really comfortable with himself as a writer when he had written 10,000 words that day. I can tell you from personal experience it is very difficult to write ten thousand words in one day; but the really hard part is to do it on consecutive days or indeed to keep up with anything close to that production for any length of time. Yet, for the real writer who cannot help but write--and Mailer was and is such a writer--the meditative euphoria that comes with being lost in one's work so completely is wonderful and quite addictive. Here Mailer writes about writing of course, concerning himself with things like writer's block, and how to build character and whether to use the first person or the third, or how to use real people in your fiction. He gives tips to young writers, as a writer in his eighties might, and certainly he is a writer to be listened to. He advises on how to use your subconscious in writing. He notes that if you declare that you are going to be at your desk the next morning to write, your subconscious will take note and help you out by preparing in advance. If however you should "wake up in the morning with a hangover and cannot get to literary work, your unconscious, after a few such failures to appear, will withdraw." (p. 142) The two-fisted machismo for which the short of stature Mailer became famous (or infamous) comes out in places in this work (e.g., he likes to compare writing with being an athlete and on page 104 he even talks of keeping in shape). Thoughts on his lifelong preoccupation with sex, narcissism, masturbation and such also appear. There is a chapter on film, one of Mailer's many intense interests. But there is sound advice on The Literary Career and what he calls the "Lit Biz." (Of course some of this is passé, since the literary world has changed quite a bit since he had to worry about such things.) There is his reaction to sudden fame after the publication of The Naked and the Dead, which he reminds us was "number one on the best-seller list for several months." (p. 115) In fact, this is such a terrific book on the writer's life and craft (he doesn't especially like the word "craft") that I sorely wish it had been available when I was a young man. Make no mistake about it. What Norman Mailer doesn't know about writing and making a success of writing is probably not much. But of course his success came mainly through hard work and an almost maniacal belief in himself over many decades and through many trials and tribulations, some of them of his own making. This book is also about life in the twentieth century by a man who lived it full speed ahead, and about other writers and other celebrities he has known or read. In the final analysis, this is a personal book by a man given to writing personal books, a book by a man who is among our finest writers, and a book--like almost all of his work--to inform, to entertain, and to admire. --Dennis Littrell, author of the mystery novel, “Teddy and Teri”

  20. 4 out of 5

    Downward

    mailer finally turns his journalistic (or whatever) talents on writing, the spooky art acts as half biography and half advanced 'how to' book. so much of mailer's writing is full of shit, overly analytical and critical of himself that it results in navel gazing but it also is important insofar as mailer is a major writer who swung for the fences every time so there's a depth of insight here into his aesthetic choices that actually allows the 'how to' portion to be really helpful. his opinions of mailer finally turns his journalistic (or whatever) talents on writing, the spooky art acts as half biography and half advanced 'how to' book. so much of mailer's writing is full of shit, overly analytical and critical of himself that it results in navel gazing but it also is important insofar as mailer is a major writer who swung for the fences every time so there's a depth of insight here into his aesthetic choices that actually allows the 'how to' portion to be really helpful. his opinions of literature are sort of edgelordy, but it's nice to read someone who seriously considers literature as something that can be consciousness changing and believes that a great book can truly take the culture from one place to another. He also confesses that he's never been successful at this, which is exactly the sort of thing that you end up admiring mailer for in spite of all his narcissism.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nona

    Was a difficult read. Not easy to get into the mind of Norman MAILER who reads as a very complex person. I listened to this CD on and off for several days, many times re listening and still found difficulty in understanding what MAILER was trying to tell the reader. In the end I decided not to continue as the complexity of his writings were not what I was wanting at the time. I think this would be good to read or listen to (asI did) when you have a blank mind, on holidays, on a plane of the like Was a difficult read. Not easy to get into the mind of Norman MAILER who reads as a very complex person. I listened to this CD on and off for several days, many times re listening and still found difficulty in understanding what MAILER was trying to tell the reader. In the end I decided not to continue as the complexity of his writings were not what I was wanting at the time. I think this would be good to read or listen to (asI did) when you have a blank mind, on holidays, on a plane of the like. It needs considerable reflection on what he has written and to try and put it into some sort of perspective. Not for me at this time.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Yuqi

    The book is broken out into sections, and I read: Lit Biz, Craft, Psychology, and parts of Giants. I skipped reading Philosophy and Genre where he lost me early on. I began skimming until he caught my attention again with his roasts of fellow writers. Really enjoyed the sections I read despite having never read anything by Norman Mailer before. Learned quite a bit about his writing process and found it as useful as On Writing by Stephen King and Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Well wo The book is broken out into sections, and I read: Lit Biz, Craft, Psychology, and parts of Giants. I skipped reading Philosophy and Genre where he lost me early on. I began skimming until he caught my attention again with his roasts of fellow writers. Really enjoyed the sections I read despite having never read anything by Norman Mailer before. Learned quite a bit about his writing process and found it as useful as On Writing by Stephen King and Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Well worth reading!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    For a long time the book seemed to be reading my and every writer's mind about the art of writing. I am not exactly marking it down for the references to other authors but the fact that it did not consistently provide explanatory quotes. Near the last quarter of the book this got very reference heavy and not relatable. By the last two chapters, it went back to mind reading. Wonderful. Lots of vocabulary for an uneducated person to feel dumb and I have a Master's Degree and still felt stupid. For a long time the book seemed to be reading my and every writer's mind about the art of writing. I am not exactly marking it down for the references to other authors but the fact that it did not consistently provide explanatory quotes. Near the last quarter of the book this got very reference heavy and not relatable. By the last two chapters, it went back to mind reading. Wonderful. Lots of vocabulary for an uneducated person to feel dumb and I have a Master's Degree and still felt stupid.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Amiable but often waffly and portentous (albeit no doubt much less than Norm in his pomp) and not hugely insightful. The essay on Lawrence was interesting to me, inasmuch as it made me vaguely interested to read him ... sometime. Not boring, but not the sort of book you'd be really upset to lose. You might even feel a tiny bit glad. Amiable but often waffly and portentous (albeit no doubt much less than Norm in his pomp) and not hugely insightful. The essay on Lawrence was interesting to me, inasmuch as it made me vaguely interested to read him ... sometime. Not boring, but not the sort of book you'd be really upset to lose. You might even feel a tiny bit glad.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Denise Barela

    I read this book for my Master's class. It was enlightening on the process of how popular authors struggle when they are fist starting out, as well as how the publishing industry has changed since his books were first published. Mailer provides useful tips and advice that I will take with me on my journey into publishing. I read this book for my Master's class. It was enlightening on the process of how popular authors struggle when they are fist starting out, as well as how the publishing industry has changed since his books were first published. Mailer provides useful tips and advice that I will take with me on my journey into publishing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    I read and re-read The Spooky Art because Norman Mailer is a craftsman and artist across genres and brilliant. His instincts about film, television, and celebrity are spot-on. Mailer knew that he gave away his talent in many instances to vices, anger, and murderous intent, yet his writer's heart was always there. This is a beautiful and agonizing book. I read and re-read The Spooky Art because Norman Mailer is a craftsman and artist across genres and brilliant. His instincts about film, television, and celebrity are spot-on. Mailer knew that he gave away his talent in many instances to vices, anger, and murderous intent, yet his writer's heart was always there. This is a beautiful and agonizing book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    James

    Reading this was like getting sucked into a conversation with the charming old rummy at your local bar: Lots of entertaining stories and wisdom, but eventually that second or third drink hits, and he starts in on how Toni Morrison never lived up to her true potential and how all gay men are merely women trapped in men’s bodies, and suddenly it’s closeout time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    DL Link

    Good book for writers, even though it doesn't have a lot of applicable advice. It's thought provoking and interesting, and Mailer was a mad scientist and maybe just a little bit mad at times. Fun read. Good book for writers, even though it doesn't have a lot of applicable advice. It's thought provoking and interesting, and Mailer was a mad scientist and maybe just a little bit mad at times. Fun read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Noah Alvarez

    Mailer has some great insight on so many aspects of writing; the art, the artists and the purpose. He rambles on sometimes and some of the topics he presents aren’t always interesting. A good book for any writer who wants some fresh and veteran perspective on the craft.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    This started strong, the middle section being generally dismissive of craft was interesting, and last third were he droned on about sex scenes in film and books could have been jettisoned entirely.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.