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Tough Guy: The Life of Norman Mailer

Tough Guy: The Life of Norman Mailer

Current price: $28.00
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Bloomsbury Caravel
Eagle Eye Book Shop
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The first biography to examine Mailer's life as a twisted lens, offering a unique insight into the history of America from the end of World War II to the election of Barack Obama.

Twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, firstly in 1969 for The Armies of the Night and again in 1980 for The Executioner's Song, Norman Mailer's life comes as close as is possible to being the Great American Novel: beyond reason, inexplicable, wonderfully grotesque and addictive.

The Naked and the Dead was acclaimed not so much for its intrinsic qualities but rather because it launched a brutally realistic sub-genre of military fiction – Catch 22 and MASH would not exist without it. Richard Bradford combs through Mailer's personal letters – to lovers and editors – which appear to be a rehearsal for his career as a shifty literary narcissist, and which shape the characters of one of the most widely celebrated World War II novels.

Bradford strikes again with a merciless biography in which diary entries, journal extracts and newspaper columns set the tone of this study of a controversial figure. From friendships with contemporaries such as James Baldwin, failed correspondences with Hemingway and the Kennedys, to terrible – but justified – criticism of his work by William Faulkner and Eleanor Roosevelt, this book gives a unique, snappy and convincing perspective of Mailer's ferocious personality and writings.

About the Author

Richard Bradford is Research Professor in English at Ulster University and Visiting Professor at the University of Avignon, France. He has published over thirty widely acclaimed books, including biographies of Philip Larkin, Alan Sillitoe, Kingsley Amis, George Orwell and a controversial portraiture of Patricia Highsmith. Bradford has written for The Spectator and The Sunday Times and has appeared on the Channel 4 series In Their Own Words: British Novelists.

Praise for Tough Guy: The Life of Norman Mailer

“Bradford offers a solid sense that Mailer could be unpleasant.” —Publishers Weekly

“British academic Bradford seems to thrive [...] when sniping, deriding perceived flaws of style and soul.” —Kirkus Reviews

“absorbing […] Bradford draws from myriad sources to craft an indelible portrait of the artist as a fascinating, never-boring man.” —Booklist

“... the book's very existence attests to a more complicated reality. It would be naïve to suppose that the renewed attention on Mailer has nothing to do with the scandals attached to his name. It would also be naïve to pretend that he was not a great American writer.” —The New Yorker

“... if this lively biography ends up being a damning speech for the prosecution, well, pugilistic old Norman is simply receiving a dose of his own medicine. You can imagine Mailer's ghost becoming suitably energised to rise from his sulphurous grave to box Bradford's lights out.” —The Times

“compulsively readable…[a] solid multifaceted critique of Mailer” —The National Review

“... there are some interesting asides and neat apercus.” —The SundayTelegraph

Tough Guy: The Life of Norman Mailer brings the life of an epic personality down to earth for a modern-day re-evaluation. Author Richard Bradford writes of Mailer's storied life in a fair and objective manner, leaving the reader to judge Mailer's words and actions […] Bradford's book is as fascinating and awe-inspiring as his subject” —City Book Review

“the story itself is so gripping (even jaw-dropping)” —Readers Digest

“the book [does a] careful investigation into the subtle, emotional aspects of power between men.” —New Statesman

Tough Guy adequately charts the controversies, the scandals, the successes, and the failures - in literature and in life - of its complicated subject” —The Washington Independent Review of Books

"A good illustration of the risks of elevating Mailer to sainthood is found in a new biography. Richard Bradford’s Tough Guy: The Life of Norman Mailer is a slender volume that tends to summarize huge amounts of information in single pages… Bradford’s hasty approach … has the advantage of plainly and clearly stating Mailer’s profound limitations…he has a gift for making Mailer look and sound preposterous — and rightly so." - Washington Examiner

"Bradford’s book has all the personal info you want to know…" - Truthdig

"'Tough Guy' is well-written and lurid, its subject a cautionary tale… [it] will hold your attention." - Pittsburg Post-Gazette

"[H]e has a penchant that’s incredibly refreshing in the 21st century because it’s so rare: he sometimes allows himself to dislike his subjects. This makes Tough Guy a bracing reading experience… his analyses are also superb… Norman Mailer would certainly have sued Richard Bradford over this book, and that should stand as its strongest recommendation." - Open Letters Review

"queasily compelling … a colourful and bracing read … memorably scathing" -The Business Post Ireland

"Tough Guy makes a sturdy case for Mailer as, if not a great guy, the author of era-defining books and a cultural force worth reckoning with... Veteran biographer Bradford reliably illuminates how Mailer's work reflected his life at the time… Bradford is unsparing in his criticism of Mailer." - Shelf Awareness

"Bradford is a fluent narrator and provides a useful refresher on the salient details of a long and interesting life. Tough Guy will satisfy salacious appetites as it explores Mailer’s relational dynamics and sexual proclivities, his alcohol and drug use, his penchant for fisticuffs. … Efficient and gossipy, Tough Guy does ample justice to Mailer the charismatic self-marketer, one of the baddest of the bad boys of postwar American literature." - Art Fuse

"... told in forensic detail by Richard Bradford..." - Oldie