Norman Mailer’s FBI File: Somehow A Less Exciting Demonstration of Postwar America As Time of Upheaval and Godly Conspiracies Than, Well, Norman Mailer

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11/13/2008 10:00 AM |

Norman Mailer died a year and three days ago, in the midst of a period of real cultural momentum — a new book, a film series, high-profile interviews — and it’s barely abated since. Last month the New Yorker published selections from his correspondence, and his letters are colossal: politically prescient, torrentially written, progressive in particulars but atavistic in general.

And now, we have his FBI file, obtained by the Washington Post via a Freedom of Information Act request. Norman Mailer’s FBI file is actually really kind of disappointing, though – which may be attributable to Mailer having lived his life and presented his beliefs so publicly, making himself into a spectacle while wrestling with himself, and America, in book after extravagant book. Still, it’s nice to know what the Bureau thought of Miami and the Siege of Chicago. (“It is written in his usual obscene and bitter style.” If only NYRB had had the file handy when they reissued the book this summer, that would have made a great back-cover quote.)

Maybe C.I.A. had all the real goods.