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An American Dream [Mass Market Paperback]

Norman Mailer
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Da' Bomb by Mailer Oct. 16 2001
Proust? James? Joyce? They're great writers but why would I want to read about lives so similar to my own? I can't lounge around in posh hotel lobbies posturing and reeking of decadent snobbery while I woo impressionable young women if I'm wasting my time reading about it! I know people who loudly renounce authors whom they have never read. I know people who feel instant self gratification upon knowing that there might be someone in the room who hasn't read DeLillo's Underworld. But I have never known anyone of any intelligence who doesn't get a kick out of Mailer. He's Jackie Collins with brass balls. An American Dream is a darkly entertaining, well-written, escapist saga. The characters are interesting and active, and the ideas are sometimes brutish, but so is life. Sure, mentioning Mailer might draw snickers from the tweed-and-elbow-patch crowd, but the porn-loving high-school senior in all of us should be allowed to have a good read once in a while!
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5.0 out of 5 stars - May 25 2004
God.. i'm so tired of reading posts that endlessly and pedantically harp-on mailer's philosophizing, and theorizing and wordage - both his number and style, calling finally to his use of "mumbo-jumbo" or mystic insights; far-out or nihilism/debauchery depicting imagery and symbolism to debunk him. Yes, his sentences are overlong; yes he can be overblown and fancy; yes, he's a cool cat with a self-styled poet's reputation to prove. Overwrought, overcooked metaphors abound. Fusillades of words come out of no where. He's an onslaught and sensory overload; and his prose is charged with an almost psychopathic zeal/fervor. But that's the point. Remove any of that from the question, the mania of his style, and you topple the foundation of one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. And if you don't like this book for the aforementioned reasons, try to read his Armies of the Night, a pulitizer prize winner, quite a contrast to his other pulitzer prize winner, Exe's Son, which is very economically and even stoicly written. in E. S., Mailer writes with the detached eye of the scientific observer, the objective, unimposing journalist, cataloging and chronicaling a nearly recoved ex-con's slow descent with a befriending family into a murdering rage. It's a spit in the eye at the stifling effects of american conventionality. But it's spit that needs no embellishment, no elaboration. The argument is there implicitly. Nothing needs to be added or tacked on, there is no rabble-rousing, no polemic or paen to the evils or the goods of prison and the manifestly holy image of "prisoner" established in Mailer's philosophical vocabulary. He's impossibly restrained. None of his personality is present at all. Read more ›
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea Jan. 14 2004
Reading An American Dream is sort of like reading Shakespeare; you eventually start wondering if people actually talked like that. Of course, the time period of this book is just a few decades ago (the early 1960s), so it's hard to believe they did. There's a conversation between main character Rojack and a jazz singer named Shago Martin that is almost completely nonsensical. The narration of the book (by Rojack) is not much better, filled with lines that sound profound until you actually think about them. Like this little gem:
"There was pain now in the sound, and such a truth in the grief that I knew she was crying not for Deborah, not even quite for herself, but rather for the unmitigatable fact that women who have discovered the power of sex are never far from suicide."
Uh... right. The other factor of this book that crippled my ability to enjoy it was the fact that Rojack is a completely unsympathetic character. He's not a bad person, just totally amoral. He never seems to do anything because it's the right thing to do; he just does whatever he wants to do, justifying his actions with quasi-philosophical nonsense. I found myself hoping the police would actually get some proof he murdered his wife and put him away.
Still, I'm aware this is regarded as an extraordinary novel by literary types, and given that, it's probably worth a chance. There's a quote on the back from a review in Harper's that says, "A work of fierce concentration." If you can figure out what that means, you might also be able to figure out this book.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't quite work Dec 17 2003
An American Dream is occasionally compelling, but it ultimately proves to be a messy train-wreck of a novel. Mailer heaps lurid details on top of a convoluted plot and an eccentric cast of characters who cross paths in unlikely ways, but the threads of the story never manage to pull together.
Stephen Rojack is an ex-politician, war hero, and public intellectual who murders his wife, and who in the aftermath goes on a bizarre rollercoaster through the gutters of Manhattan, a journey which leads him to some surprising revelations.
In reading An American Dream I often felt that the novel was a sort of experiment in Mailer's eyes; several elements appear that he would revisit in other novels. He again looks through the eyes of a killer in Executioner's Song, and he writes about spies, gangsters, and JFK again in the Harlot's Ghost, his excellent epic fictionalized story of the CIA.
There are a couple of sterling moments in which Mailer's skill as a writer shines. In the first, Rojack, the protagonist, recounts an experience rushing a German machine gun nest. Mailer does a perfect job of painting the out-of-body otherworldliness of the moment. The second occurs when Rojack approaches a woman in a bar and ends up in a tense standoff with the gangsters who are accompanying her. Both instances are excellently drawn sketches of violence, one carried out through action, the other threatened but unrealized.
A few strong passages notwithstanding, this is an unfocused under-edited novel full of opaque philosophizing and flat characters. An interesting experiment, but it doesn't quite work.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not his best
I couldn't believe this is the author of "The Naked and the Dead", "Harlot's Ghost", and "The Executioner's Song"! Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2004 by Jim Huang
1.0 out of 5 stars A Foray Into the Verbose
Longwinded narcissist, Norman Mailer, is at it again. Everyone I've talked to hasn't been able to finish his novels. Read more
Published on Dec 7 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious ...
The sensibility Mailer is so proud of conveying here is that of Rojack, a boring wife-murderer with all the usual pseudo-Hemingwayesque appurtenances. Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars An American Dream (Wr. by Norman Mailer)
You think Gary Condit has problems? Stephen Rojack is a former congressman, contemporary of John F. Kennedy, popular TV talk show host... Read more
Published on May 20 2002 by Charles Tatum
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully sick satire.
I had two expectations of this book that bore no fruit. An english teacher I had at Columbia described the plot in such a manner as to make one feel the protagonist would be such... Read more
Published on Dec 26 2001 by E. Steven Fried
2.0 out of 5 stars More nonsense from Mailer
"Dream" is right. Mailer paints himself as a war hero. Don't we all. War hero, sports hero, world leader, whatever. Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2000 by Len Feder
1.0 out of 5 stars Mailer Bomb
I know people who reread Proust every year. I know people whose favorite book is Finnegan's Wake. But I have never known anyone of any intelligence who has made it through a novel... Read more
Published on July 13 2000
1.0 out of 5 stars A guy's book
This book is about power and masochism. All the female characters are witches. The main character (Rojack)is a pathetic, manic-depressive sociopath who thinks the moon is talking... Read more
Published on June 11 2000 by "fredman8"
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, fatalistic and marvellous!
The typically deified American: war hero, Congressman and TV star; his perceived perfect life is wracked with turmoil as the devils inside him turn him into a suicidal, homicidal,... Read more
Published on May 15 2000 by Conno
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