Menu JTA Search

News Brief

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Controversial novelist Norman Mailer died at the age of 84.

The Pulitzer-Prize winning author died of kidney failure early Saturday in Manhattan.

Mailer began his illustrious six-decade career with “The Naked and the Dead,” a semi-autobiographical novel about a 13-man platoon fighting the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II. He won the Pulitzer in 1968 for “The Armies of the Night” and in 1979 for “The Executioner’s Song.” He is the author of more than 30 books. He was writing a sequel to his 2007 novel, “The Castle in the Forest,” at the time of his death.

In addition to novels, Mailer wrote essays, social commentaries, movie scripts and nonfiction narratives. His 1960 Esquire magazine essay about John F. Kennedy, describing the senator’s romantic aura, contributed to the “Kennedy mystique.” He also wrote essays against the Vietnam War.

An anti-war, anti-establishment liberal, Mailer co-founded the Village Voice in 1955. Mailer ran for mayor of New York City in 1969, finishing fourth in a field of five.

Born Norman Kingsley, or Nachem Malek, in 1923, Mailer was the son of a Lithuanian refugee and South African emigre father, Issac Barnett, and a New York native, Fanny Schneider.

Mailer stabbed his second wife — he was married six times — with a pen knife after a drunken party at his apartment in 1960. Ten years later, during a fight with actor Rip Torn on the set of “Maidstone,” which he was directing, he bit off part of the actor’s ear. He also had a long-standing argument with writer Gore Vidal.

He championed the case of convict Jack Henry Abbot, and helped obtain his release from prison. Weeks later Abbot stabbed a man to death.

NEXT STORY