*It may be that the only significant accomplishment I can claim for the month immediately following the birth of my second child, is the reading of this door-stopper - 900 or so pages of literary biography.
A word about the cover (top, left). Is this really the best the team at Simon & Schuster could come up with for the authorized biography of one of the heavyweights of 20th century American letters?
The image itself - by photographer, gallery owner, and Mailer friend Molly Malone Cook - is less a portrait than a snapshot. Perhaps there were licensing issues that prevented use of the portrait by Diane Arbus (top, right), but biographer Lennon justly praises this particular portrait and features it inside the book. It’s just one of many alternatives the publishers might have explored.
And then there’s the font. Seriously? It’s the kind of font you might anticipate on the cover of a pulp spy novel, or perhaps an Austen Powers spin-off. But on the cover of a 900 page biography, a work of enormous dedication and research? If I’m J. Michael Lennon, I’m let down and gutted.
Excerpt, in which Mailer is following the campaign trail of Richard Nixon (The un-italicized paragraph is from Mailer’s account):
'Posing as a security guard, he scrutinized faces for thirty minutes. What he saw helped him understand why the new Nixon had such stout support.
Most of them were ill-proportioned in some part of their physique. Half must have been, of course, men and women over fifty and their bodies reflected the pull of their character. The dowager’s hump was common, and many a man had a flaccid paunch, but the collective tension was rather in the shoulders, in the girdling of the shoulders against anticipated lashings on the back, in the thrust forward of the neck, in the maintenance of the muscles of the mouth forever locked in readiness to bite the tough meat of resistance, in a posture forward from the hip since the small of the back was dependably stiff, loins and mind cut away from each other by some abyss between navel and hip.’