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Collection of Norman Mailer’s writing finds new publisher

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 5, 2022

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer attends a lecture at the New York Public Library on June 27, 2007, in New York.  (Associated Press)
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer attends a lecture at the New York Public Library on June 27, 2007, in New York. (Associated Press)
By Hillel Italie Associated Press

NEW YORK – An anthology of the late Norman Mailer’s writing that Random House allegedly had scheduled for his centennial in 2023, but backed off from, will be released by Skyhorse Publishing. The publisher has taken on discarded works such as Woody Allen’s memoir “Apropos of Nothing” and a Philip Roth biography written by Blake Bailey.

Andrew Wylie, whose literary agency represents the Mailer estate, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Skyhorse Publishing will release the book and that Random House has waived any reprint fees. He said that such details as the book’s contents, title and date of publication were still to be determined.

“Random House is proud to publish Norman Mailer, and intends to promote his work significantly for the centennial, in tandem with the publication by Skyhorse of the anthology,” Wylie wrote in an email. “The Mailer family and Random House are united in support of Norman’s work.”

A Skyhorse spokesperson was not immediately able to confirm there was a deal for the Mailer book.

Wylie disputed a report by the online publication Ankler, which alleged Random House dropped the project because of misgivings about some of Mailer’s work, notably his 1957 essay “The White Negro,” which was criticized by James Baldwin and others even at the time it came out.

“That’s not the issue at all,” Wylie said when asked if he would confirm the report. “Everyone’s pleased by the outcome.”

Asked why Random House was not publishing the book, Wylie called it an “editorial decision” and added that “There is really no issue here.”

Mailer, who died in 2007, was among the most famous and controversial authors in his lifetime and has long been a signature part of Random House’s legacy. He was the recipient of Pulitzer Prizes for “The Armies of the Night” and “The Executioner’s Song,” but was also widely condemned for his writing on race, for his admittedly misogynist opinions and for the stabbing of his second wife, Adele Morales, in 1960.

Interest in his work has sharply faded, especially compared to such contemporaries as Baldwin. According to NPD BookScan, which tracks around 85% of the print market, combined sales for four of Mailer’s best known books – “The Armies of the Night,” “The Naked and the Dead,” “The Executioner’s Song” and “The Fight” – were under 4,000 copies in 2021.

According to one of Mailer’s sons, Michael Mailer, Random House suggested a centennial project and the family, along with J. Michael Lennon, “put together a proposal for a collection of political essays on democracy which they liked and then decided later not to proceed due to objections, putatively, from certain junior executives.”

A Random House spokesperson did not respond directly to allegations about the book’s contents, saying in a statement: “It is factually incorrect that Random House cancelled an upcoming book of essays by Norman Mailer. We did not have this collection under contract. Random House does continue to publish much of Norman Mailer’s backlist.”

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