Norman Mailer, the macho prince of American letters who for decades reigned as the country's literary conscience and provocateur, died of renal failure early Saturday, his literary executor said. He was 84.
Mailer died at Mount Sinai Hospital, said J. Michael Lennon, also the author’s official biographer.
Right from his classic debut novel, The Naked and the Dead, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner always got credit for insight, passion and originality.
Some of Mailer’s works were highly praised, some panned, but none was pronounced the Great American Novel that seemed to be his life quest from the time he soared to the top as a brash 25-year-old “enfant terrible”.
Mailer built an image over the years as pugnacious, streetwise and high-living. He drank, fought, smoked pot, married six times and stabbed his second wife, almost fatally, during a party.
He had nine children, made a quixotic bid to become mayor of New York, produced five forgettable films, challenged professional boxers and crusaded against women’s lib.
But as Newsweek reviewer Raymond Sokolov said in 1968, “'in the end, it is the writing that will count.”