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An American Dream by Norman Mailer

An American Dream (1965)

by Norman Mailer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
You think Gary Condit has problems? Stephen Rojack is a former congressman, contemporary of John F. Kennedy, popular TV talk show host... and he has just strangled his estranged wife to death.

To cover his crime, he tosses her out of a tenth story window, then meets up with a gangster's moll/lounge singer named Cherry. If ever a character was written to be played by Charlize Theron, this is it. The police suddenly drop their suspicions of murder against Rojack because they have bigger fish to fry- namely some of Cherry's mobster friends. The novel takes a look at a day and a half in the life of Rojack, following his rendezvous with Cherry, Ruta (his wife's maid), and his eventual meeting with his wife's father, culminating with his own high rise theatrics.

This book moves very fast. The reader loves to hate Rojack. The novel is from his point of view, so we see the inner workings of his alcohol soaked mind. Mailer's descriptions are lucid, dense, and brilliant. You feel like you are in 1963 New York City, running from the police, smelling the smells of the squad room, and making love to exotic women.

What does not work here are the kind of mobsters that were threatening in 1963, but come off like characters in a bad straight to video Eddie Deezen comedy today. There is a subplot involving some of the characters' involvement in the CIA that is also dated, and Mailer's attempts at magical fantasies that Rojack takes us on in his mind are over the top and dull.

Other reviews I have read have mentioned this is a good starter to a Mailerphyte, and I would agree. "An American Dream" is entertaining, but not a perfect tome.

This novel features a lot of sex, violence, profanity, and more alcohol consumption than a frat during rush week, so the kiddies probably should not have this Dream. (* * * *) out of five stars. ( )
  Charles_Tatum | Jan 6, 2019 |
This is a Mailer that I read, but did not keep. The story is an extended fantasy on the lines of, "if I really let it all hang out, this is the kind of violence that I would wreak on my world." Kill the wife, and then lunge across the American Media for a summer, and then, why I'd just have the job of being famous for being famous. I don't like the hero, I don't think many of the people he disrespects deserve it, and, while I do dislike the wife, I'm thinkin' all he needed was a divorce and a bender.
Norman Mailer after "The Naked and the Dead" had to keep on being an important writer, and this was his attempt to keep going. But what this book does do, and perhaps that is what it meant to do, was forecast the entire spectacle of the decline and fall of O.J. Simpson? ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jul 29, 2014 |
After doing a little research on Norman Mailer, I decided to read something of his. I happened to get this book for free from a friend, so it made sense to start with this one.

Three things come to my mind after reading this book: violence, metaphorical language, and great writing. This book is entirely about violence, but Mailer uses beautiful language techniques (similes and metaphors) that help romanticize violence in a way that I've never experienced before. Also, Norman Mailer knew how to write! His prose is very deep, philosophical, and beautiful...even though he was a horror of a human being while living.

I must say, this book did not let me down. I know I will read others by Mailer now...but I have to take a break after reading this bleak view of humanity. ( )
  rsplenda477 | May 29, 2013 |
Putting American in the title of a book doesn't make it great. This book seemed much longer than its length; I found the writing turgid. The contents of Stephen Rojack's psyche is everything in this novel: what he smells; the plight of the intellectual beating, fucking and drinking all comers under the table. Rojack has a world view I could not identify with, but I did not find him an interesting enough creation to want to look at the world through him eyes, or smell it with his twitching canine nose.

The plot seemed flimsy and contrived, characters would expose to Rojack a story about their past and it often led to a bunch of dead ends - or a pat coincidence - are there only 10 people in all of the United States? At some points I thought, maybe this is a satire, is there something darkly comic at the heart of this? Maybe, it didn't make me laugh. If you want to read a book about transgression and haven't yet read American psycho - read that instead of this - it's much funnier. ( )
1 vote rhondagrantham | Nov 5, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mailer, NormanAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kliphuis, J.F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawrie, BobCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Beverly and to Michael Burks
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I MET Jack Kennedy in November, 1946.
I had my fill of walking about with a chest full of hatred and a brain jammed to burst, but there is something manly about containing your rage, it is so difficult, it is like carrying a two-hundred-pound safe up a cast-iron hill. The exhilaration comes I suppose from possessing such strength. Besides, murder offers the promise of vast relief. It is never unsexual.
I must have been in some far-gone state because there was an aureole about each electric light, each bulb stood out like a personage, and I remember thinking: of course, this is how they appeared to Van Gogh at the end.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375700706, Paperback)

Stephen Rojack is a decorated war hero, a former Congressman, and a certified public intellectual with his own television show. He is also married to the very rich, very beautiful, and utterly amoral Deborah Caughlin Kelly. But one night, in the prime of his existence, he hears the moon talking to him on the terrace of a fashionable New York high-rise, and it is urging him to kill himself. It is almost as a defense against that infinitely seductive voice that Rojack murders his wife.

In this wild battering ram of a novel, which was originally published to vast controversy in 1965, Norman Mailer creates a character who might be a fictional precursor of the philosopher-killer he would later profile in The Executioner's Song. As Rojack runs amok through the city in which he was once a privileged citizen, Mailer peels away the layers of our social norms to reveal a world of pure appetite and relentless cruelty. Sensual, horrifying, and informed by a vision that is one part Nietzsche, one part de Sade, and one part Charlie Parker, An American Dream grabs the reader by the throat and refuses to let go.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:20 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

War hero, ex-Congressman, a professor of 'popular but somewhat notorious reputation', television personality and husband of the rich and beautiful Deborah ('a girl who would have been bored by a diamond as big as the Ritz'), Stephen Rojack lived the "American Dream". But his enviable life concealed a strange tension, the constant 'itch to jump', and when one day he finally cracks and strangles his luscious wife, he unleashes a personality of undreamt-of ferocity. A wanted murderer, Rojack is suddenly catapulted into an alien world of gangsters, crumbling tenements and downtown bars. Here, he meets Cherry, a small-time singer who ekes out her living in sleazy nightclubs, waiting for a break.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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Average: (3.37)
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1.5 2
2 14
2.5 6
3 45
3.5 15
4 33
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5 22


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