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The Deer Park by Norman Mailer

The Deer Park (original 1955; edition 1997)

by Norman Mailer

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Title:The Deer Park
Authors:Norman Mailer
Info:Abacus (1997), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 398 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Deer Park by Norman Mailer (1955)


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"I went to Palm Springs, and I didn't much care for it." You could, I guess, say that that's "The Deer Park" in a nutshell, but there's more to this book than mere moral censoriousness or lurid exposé. I haven't read much Mailer -- this is just the second book by him that I've ever read -- but the writing here is fantastic: crisp, forceful, masculine, and flowing. Reading it's like watching a really good pianist going after something stern and atonal with marvelously controlled intensity. Mailer's basic tool here is satire, and some film fans will, I suppose, have some fun trying to match the book's characters to their real-life analogues. Beyond that, though, I liked "The Deer Park" because there's so much about people that Mailer seems to get right in it: it offers an exquisitely informed description of the egoism of actors, the self-defeating egotism of many who who try to create art, perhaps most frighteningly, the weird mix of sentimentality and greed that motivates so many of the truly powerful. There's also pimp, self-made philosopher, and dead-eyed madnman Marion Faye, a portrait of a thoroughly destructive personality that's enormously chilling and, in its way, far ahead of its time. There is a lot of sex, indulgence, and general moral decay here: the novel's air of plush, seedy degeneracy is one of its attractions. You can see why a publisher of that time might have rejected it as obscene. But much of sexual content manages to be both bracingly frank enormously arousing, and I tend to think that writing about sex without seeming prurient or too self-serious is harder than it sounds. But the book is also an invigorating mix of literary and the unabashedly pulpy, beating writers like James Elroy and Robert Stone to this combination by at least twenty years. There's a recurrent religious analogy here that I think Mailer might take too far, and it is, I think, the only moment in which the book slips a little. Also, I found that the book, for all the scandal it contains, perhaps a bit too long and a bit too slowly paced, though that may simply be a reflection of its louche desert setting. I don't think that "The Deer Park" is one of Mailer's better-regarded books, but perhaps it's due for a revival. Few pieces of real-deal literature I've ever read sizzle so tantalizingly while going so deep. ( )
2 vote TheAmpersand | Jul 17, 2016 |
Despite the umbiguous character of an protagonist, Sergius, this book is still a mastery work of Norman Mailer. The scene was set in Hollywood, California, where the sun was always shining. In the world of hypocricy, we have to give ourselves to hypocricy if we want to be saved.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375700404, Paperback)

Amid the cactus wilds some two hudred miles from Hollywood lies a privileged oasis called Desert D'Or. It is a place for starlets and would-be starlets, directors, studio execs, and the well-groomed lowlifes who cater to them. And, as imagined by Norman Mailer in this blistering classic of 1950s Hollywood, Desert D'Or is a moral proving ground, where men and women discover what they really want—and how far the are willing to go to get it.

The Deer Park is the story of two interlacing love affairs. Sergius O'Shaugnessy is a young ex-Air Force pilot whose good looks and air of indifference launch him into the orbit of the radiant actress Lulu Meyers. Charles Eitel is a brilliant director wounded by accusations of communism—and whose liaison with the volatile Elena Esposito may supply the coup de grace to his career. As Mailer traces their couplings and uncouplings, their uneasy flirtation with success and self-extinction, he creates a legendary portrait of America's machinery of desire.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:48 -0400)

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