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Harlot's Ghost by Norman Mailer

Harlot's Ghost (1991)

by Norman Mailer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
A fun, if too long novel of the CIA with crosses, double crosses, and lots of intrigue. Does provide us with some interesting insight into the Cold War, and into the world before the Berlin Wall came down. My favorite scenes are the ones actually taking place in Berlin. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
I liked it a lot and really with the planned sequel had been completed.
  FKarr | Mar 8, 2015 |
I hated this book. I love narrative but I could NOT plow through this. It actually depressed me, and I have no idea why. I might try it again sometime - perhaps it was where I was in my life at the time? ( )
  EileenWYSIWYG | Jun 1, 2011 |
Any individual section of this book might rate four to four-and-a-half stars, but taken all together, this thing is just exhausting. The wearying effect is exacerbated by the fact that the book consists of three relatively disconnected segments, rather than one all-encompassing story. In spite of the length, this book is not bloated; think of it as three tightly-written 400-page novels strung loosely together.

Admittedly, I know nothing about the CIA other than what I've read in this book, but the account that Mailer presents is thoroughly researched and seems very believable. A few peripheral details, however, stretch crediblility, such as A) the inclusion of a gay character named "Dix Butler", B) a grown, respected man who calls himself by the name of his favorite baseball player (although many characters, including Cal, exhibit outrageous toffery that makes that decision a little more credible, if not palatable), C) consensual gay gangbangs in a Catholic boarding school (I can believe that sexual abuse takes place, but the degree of it and the casualness with which the acts are treated confuse me), and D) a mentor character that teaches the protagonist to rock-climb over the course of months, only to tell him he sucks at it and to join the CIA instead. These absurdities detract little from the overall effect of the novel, though, especially once you get 800 pages or so removed from them. All in all, it's extremely informative, interesting, and believable, just an epic struggle to complete. Good luck. ( )
4 vote _________jt_________ | Nov 17, 2010 |
Harlot's Ghost is a mammoth novel and most of its spectacular. It is about the life of a CIA agent and is also about alpha and omega - Mailer says every individual is being pulled in two different directions at a particular point in time by his/her alpa (optimistic and masculine) and omega (pessimistic and feminine).

The novel starts off with Harry Hubbard,a CIA agent who has fallen from grace travelling to Russia to solve the mystery behind the dissaperance/possible murder of his mentor Huge "Harlot" Montague (who used to be the heart and nerve centre of the CIA). While in russia, Harry reads through his memoirs of life in the CIA. His memoirs begin with being tested by his eccentric father who works in the CIA. Mountain climbing expeditions with Hugh Montague, life in Berlin with Bill Harvey a self styled martini swigging CIA boss, playing two russian agents against each other over a woman in Montevideo,ganizing the Bay of Pigs operation, dating Sinatra and JFK's common air hostess girlfriend and finally the assasination of JFK are all part of Harry's memoirs. there are also epistolary converations with kitteridge (Hugh Montague's wife) with whom Harry embarks on a love affair.

Nearly every character in the novel is explained using the concept of alpha and omega. There are fantastic passages about East-West relations, communism, capitalism, american masculinity, love, fidel castro etc.

The book is a bit tedious at times. But just when you start to get tired with the minute details or long monologues Mailer engages you with a musing on communism or an interesting anecdote.

I recommend Harlot's Ghost whole heartedly. It is not a typical spy novel. It is worth reading if only for the larger than life characters that make appearances in the novel - the Kennedy brothers, Castro, Drezhnisky, Marilyn Monroe, Sam Giancana, Allen Dulles, Howard Hunt and even Lenny Bruce.
3 vote beerbelly666 | Apr 16, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Slick the book certainly is not. But a page-turner it is for a great deal of the time, and none the worse for it. The best sequences in the book, all of which involve the CIA in action, require a certain breathlessness, as the operatives spin through their madcap motions faster than the speed of thought; as with the Red Queen in Alice this is the pace they have to maintain in spyland just to stay in the same place.

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mailer, Normanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Häilä, ArtoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For we wrestle, not against flesh and blood,
but against principalities, against powers,
against the rulers of the darkness
of this world, against spiritual wickedness
in high places.
--Ephesians, 6:12
BELINDA: Ay, but you know we must return good for evil.
LADY BRUTE: That may be a mistake in the translation
--Sir John Vanbrugh
The Provoked Wife
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire,
My Soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
--Theodore Roethke
In a Dark Time
To Jason Epstein
First words
In a late winter evening in 1983, while driving through fog along the Maine coast, recollections of old campfires began to drift into the March mist, and I thought of the Abnaki Indians of the Algonquin tribe who dwelt near Bangor a thousand years ago.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345379659, Paperback)

"The most daring, ambitious and by far the best written of the several very long, daring and ambitious books Norman Mailer has so far produced....Unlike just about every American writer since Henry James, Mailer has managed to grow and become richer in wisdom with each new book....There can no longer be any doubt that he possesses the largest mind and imagination at work in American literature today."
Narrated by Harry Hubbard, a second-generation CIA man, HARLOT'S GHOST looks into the depths of the American soul and the soul of Hugh Tremont Montague, code name Harlot, a CIA man obsessed. And Harry is about to discover how far the madness will go and what it means to the Agency and the country....
A Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:22 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Harry Hubbard, a second-generation CIA man, in his career discovers how far madness will go and what it means to the Agency and the country.

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