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Ancient evenings by Norman Mailer
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Ancient evenings (original 1983; edition 1983)

by Norman Mailer

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8751310,166 (3.44)58
Member:stevenmg
Title:Ancient evenings
Authors:Norman Mailer
Info:Boston : Little, Brown, c1983.
Collections:Gay Male Literature Bibliography
Rating:
Tags:gay men > fiction

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Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer (1983)

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Ancient Egypt is not an area where I have much background, so this book is rated almost purely on its entertainment value. It wasn't more than entertaining. Mr. Mailer continues his quest for a definition of manhood that will allow him to feel good. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Feb 22, 2014 |
I can only tell you my experience of the book.

It was knocking on the door of greatness. The beginning was staggering, and I was floored by the musicality of its sentences, its startling imagery, and the depth of thought that made these ancient Egyptians remind me, as others before me, of aliens in a science fiction novel – that is, the past is an alien world. I was having an encounter with this novel, like you have with extraterrestials or great beasts. This reached its pitch with the Battle of Kadesh, whose inspirations were the Old Testament and the Iliad, and where Mailer, in the whole chapter devoted to the battle, gives his sentences the rush and rhythm of chariot wheels. Awesome battle scene.

So far, with me, he hadn’t put a foot wrong. Thomas Mann went wrong in Egypt with the ornate style, for me: I loved his first Joseph books but in Egypt I sank into the sands of his Biblical loquacity. But Mailer, as Old Testamenty as he, hadn’t spent a word too much, he was music to my ears. Then I hit the Book of Queens. It was atrocious, and the novel never clawed up from that low – until perhaps the last five pages.

As for the sex content. In the parts I admired, I didn’t feel it was gratuitous or ill-done. I’ll thank him for his lessons in unhealthy psychology. Once I read a book – which I won’t even link to, because I hated the book and thought it bad history – that told me how common in the ancient world was war rape, man to man: as a further vanquishment of a defeated enemy. So, there’s much oneupmanship in here, where they use such methods to humiliate and see who’s ahead of who. It’s effing unhealthy, like I say; nevertheless, when I read that aforementioned nonfiction I was disturbed and disgusted, whereas Mailer doesn’t set out to disturb and disgust me and he didn’t. When he has a humiliate-the-captive scene entirely from the point of view of the unapologetic perpetrator, I felt I was given insight, in the way fiction can.

None of what I’ve just said goes for the latter part of the book, where sex is stupid, gratuitous and features women. I had already noticed that he never has women raped. Is that pushing it, even for him? I had to wonder. But in these stretches you soon notice every single woman is a sex addict, and... spare me. It’s worse than I can say. The music is lost too, since he’s thrown discipline to the winds; and the Egyptians aren’t aliens now, they live in your closest daytime soap.

He took ten years to write this, as he lets us know at the end. Maybe he had a brain explosion along the way. ( )
1 vote Jakujin | Nov 16, 2013 |
Had its moments, but far too long, not to mention generally meandering and pointless. Interesting only for its evocation of daily life in ancient Egypt. ( )
  wirehead | Jul 9, 2013 |
Oh, what the fuck, Norman. You've completely lost it.

I respected The Naked and the Dead very much. A true epic of the Pacific War, no question. This is something by a different person entirely. Now, in his later career, he just seems to be fascinated with shit - literally. The historical novel about Hitler seemed to have too much rambling rants about piss in it. I refuse to read too much into his personal life, but this almost seems fetishistic.

Aside from that, I've always had a fascination for the mythology and history of Ancient Egypt, and it takes special effort to make this seem boring. What a waste.

( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Not for the faint of heart and take plenty of liquids. Evokes well the time of the pharoahs and the carnality at times excessive ring true. ( )
  charlie68 | Jul 20, 2012 |
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Menehetet I rises from peasant stock to become a harem overlord between the reigns of Ramses II and Ramses IX of Egypt.

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