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The Naked and the Dead: 50th Anniversary Edition, With a New Introduction by the Author Hardcover – May 15 1998

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 722 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (May 15 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805060189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805060188
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 4.8 x 21.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 925 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,605,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Library Journal

This 50th-anniversary edition of Mailer's World War II epic contains a new introduction by the author. If your current copy is falling apart, now is the time to replace it.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Nightmarish masterpiece of realism."--Celeveland News

"The most important American novel since Moby Dick."--Providence Journal

"The best novel to come out of the . . . war, perhaps the best book to come out of any war."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Brutal, agonizing, astonishingly thoughtful."--Newsweek

"Vibrant with life, abundant with real people, full of memorable scenes. To call it merely a great book about the war would be to minimize its total achievement."--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Best novel yet about World War II."--Time

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Paperback
Mailer's Naked and the Dead is the story of a group of soldiers on an island in the Pacific during world war II, trying to take control of the island. Rather than focus on the macro-elements of the campaign, Mailer gives us an almost cinematic treatment of this platoon of a dozen soldiers, showing us their fears and desires, their foibles and prejudices. With flashbacks (Time Machines) giving the context and past of each of the men, you start to understand them more as the book moves on. By the time the platoon sets out on a reconnaissance patrol, you are familiar with all the main characters.
But the book suffers from over-wordiness at times, especially since so much of it is description of the soldiers' movements and surroundings. The tension among the men could be tauter, and the book could be a hundred pages shorter. But Mailer's gut-punching style, using simple words and sentences, gives an earthy feel to this book, which certainly was more influential when it was released than it is now. It's still a must-read, though.
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Format: Paperback
Earlier this year I decided to improve the quality of the books I was reading - or, at least, to mix more "good" books in with the easy reading. The Naked and the Dead was the first of these - and what a good choice it was.
Norman Mailer writes with a clarity that is often missing from other good novelists. He develops very strong characters and focusses closely on the interactions between them and their environment. Don't expect an action-packed story: The tales here are the soldier's lives and the lack of action is part of war which seems to be very realistically reconstructed.
The story, for what it's worth, follows a band of recon soldiers on an island in the Pacific during World War II. The book opens with the initial assault on the Japanese-held island; it finishes with the quick and anti-climatic (deliberately so) mopping up of the last troups. In between we follow the soldiers' progress through the jungle, go with them on a desperate recon. mission, and learn about their lives through a series of personal flashbacks.
We also see a full range of characters - at all levels in the army - and see their private and semi-private battles with authority. Often the authority in question is an over-demanding or idiotic superior; just as often it is an insolant, stubborn inferior. It is this interplay between the ranks that makes this novel stand out.
The book seems long, but it really is a page turner up with the best of them. At the end of it, you'll be able to say you really enjoyed a work of great fiction.
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Format: Paperback
I bought the book based on size and reputation. I read nothing from Mailer prior to this book, and I needed something to occupy several hours of travel in Europe. Over 800 pages of prose would do the trick.
I ended up reading the book in the hotel, four hours at a stretch. I was fascinated by it, particularly in seeing so many familiar literary devices originate with this novel. The backstories of the characters were excellent, and I found it to be a compact way of developing the characters and explaining their motivations.
What I particularly liked was the writing style, and the Lieutenant-General struggle was perhaps the real soul of the book. The self-awareness of each competitor, and the misconception of what each was trying to accomplish, was a microcosm of each struggle throughout the book. Every point of conflict was sharply defined through a misunderstanding, a lack of communication, a little misstep here or there, compounding to some surprising and gut wrenching conclusions.
Because the ending was frustrating to me, I found it completely believable and realistic. I can see someone stumbling into a victory; I can see our hero dying due to betrayal; and I can see the flawed, vaguely malignant leader emerge largely unscathed from the chaos.
...I can understand the reservations of some reviewers, but only in an abstract, "right to your opinion" sort of way. For me, this was a 4.5 on a 5-star scale. The only reservation was the self-censoring of certain words and phrases to pass editorial review, something I feel should not be an author's consideration when writing. I can forgive this weakness in a 25 year old Norman Mailer, however. He's certainly earned it.
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Format: Paperback
This is the novel that made Norman Mailer an overnight literary sensation, and was perhaps the first famous literary work dealing with events in WW II. Unlike some of the other great WW II classics like CATCH-22 and GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, it was written immediately following the war.
From the comments I read from other reviewers, I seem to like this novel a bit less than others. While it is unquestionably a novel of great scope and seriousness, I found much of it to be stiff and somewhat dated. Many of the characters seemed to me to be stock characters, and almost all of the conversation struck me as stiff and artificial. I should add, however, that I have heard Mailer interviewed on several occasions, and interestingly I find his own conversational style to be somewhat stiff and artificial. So, it might be that the style in THE NAKED AND THE DEAD follows his own inner voice.
Nonetheless, even for a relative nonfan of the book, there is much to admire in this book. One scene describing a battle at night possessed a great deal of power. And while I found the conversations awkward, over the course of time you get a sense of the dynamics and personalities of the various platoon members. What especially surprised me about the book was how cynical and disillusioned the novel felt. It was, after all, published in 1948, and the flush and pride of victory already feels stale and faded. This is not the John Wayne in THE SANDS OF IWO JIMA.
One disconcerting aspect of the book was the extensive use of pseudo-profanity. Obviously, in 1948 Mailer or his editors either felt or knew that the novel would face censorship charges if the F-word were used.
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