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This chapter addresses one of Mailer’s most notable literary influences, Ernest Hemingway. Mailer wrestled with the looming influence of Hemingway to such an extent that the relationship merits its own focused study. When it was first published, The Naked and the Dead invited immediate comparisons to Hemingway, which had much to do with the two authors similar thematic concerns. For years, Mailer alternately fought against and embraced these comparisons, wrestling with Hemingway’s influence, writing about him on more than one occasion (in pieces such as 1956’s “Nomination of Ernest Hemingway for President” and 1963’s “Punching Papa” among others), and writing an unanswered letter to him as well.
Mailer wrote thousands of letters over the course of his lifetime. Indeed, many have commented on the generosity he displayed via his correspondence, taking time to personally respond to inquiries from aspiring writers and admirers. He wrote to family, to friends, to editors, to fellow authors, and to critics, sharing ideas, philosophies, anecdotes, and advice. The publication of Selected Letters of Norman Mailer in 2015 provides another view of Mailer’s engagement with the literary world and with American culture, and provides additional biographical context that enriches our understanding of his writing.
This chapter addresses Mailer’s sometimes combative but always interesting friendships and feuds with writers and intellectuals like Gore Vidal, William F. Buckley, William Styron, James Jones, and Diana Trilling. These stormy relationships offer examples of Mailer’s embrace of both verbal and physical sparring, and his willingness to engage in debate with individuals “on the other side of the aisle,” his fraught friendship with Buckley being a prime example of this.
The chapter provides an overview of literary predecessors whose influence is evident across Mailer’s work, but perhaps most notably in his early work: John Dos Passos, James T. Farrell, William Faulkner, D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Theodore Dreiser, Herman Melville, John Steinbeck, Thomas Wolfe, and Leo Tolstoy, among others.
How Norman Mailer enters the discussion of Modernism may be as opaque as the discussion of Modernism itself. Several lines of approach, however, may be useful: First, which traditions did Mailer gravitate towards; second, how did Mailer define himself as an artist; third, what were the central elements of his worldview and poetics; and fourth, what questions of form and style did his work attempt to explore? This chapter situates Mailer’s work within the literary and historical context of the Modernist movement by focusing on his use of persona, his worldview, and the thematic content of his work.
Mailer assumed the role of a sharp literary critic throughout his career. His criticisms ranged from such pieces as 1959’s “Quick Evaluations of the Talent in the Room,” in which he offered brief appraisals of a number of his contemporaries, to his infamous review of Waiting for Godot (which he published without having seen the play), to more extended and thoughtful reviews of works by Bret Easton Ellis, Jonathan Franzen, and others.
. This chapter provides a glimpse into some of the relationships with writers from different generations, countries, and backgrounds that animated Roth’s life and enriched his fiction. Fierce defender of his friends, when it came to literature he was also an incisive critic. He famously withheld praise from his dying mentor Bernard Malamud, in whose eulogy he quoted William Blake: “Opposition is true friendship.”
This chapter discusses Roth's literary influences, and explores how Roth himself negotiates multiple forms of influence. It acknowledges the impact of specific predecessors and contemporaries on Roth's work, such as Kafka, Bellow, Malamud, James, and others, while also exploring less-often acknowledged literary influences such as Anne Frank, Virginia Woolf, and Joyce Carol Oates.
This chapter examines the reception of Decadence in Britain by focusing on responses to the poet Paul Verlaine. For many Anglophone readers Verlaine epitomized Decadence, but comment upon his work is hedged by euphemism and ambiguity. I argue that this reflects the ‘queer’ resonance of Decadence for British readers, encompassing Verlaine’s status as a homosexual poet and, more generally, the power of Decadent writing to question and unsettle received knowledge (including sexual norms). The chapter traces the origins of the term ‘Decadence’ through classical historiography to the work of Charles Baudelaire and its transition across the Channel in the 1890s, as writers including Arthur Symons, Oscar Wilde, John Gray and Michael Field absorbed the influence of Baudelaire’s literary successors, J. K. Huysmans and Verlaine, into their own work. Symons’ description of Decadence as a ‘new and beautiful and interesting disease’ helpfully draws together what British readers found so appealing and so disturbing about Decadence – its continental origins, its association with various kinds of transgression and its capacity to revitalize clichéd ways of thinking.
We live in Orwellian times. We have also lived through, and continue to live in, an age of post-Orwellian novels. Books by writers as varied as Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, Anthony Burgess, Philip K. Dick, Cory Doctorow, Dave Eggers, Maggie Gee, Ursula Le Guin, Michel Houellebecq, and Will Self, not to mention Suzanne Collins, Patrick Ness, and Veronica Roth, among numerous others, attest to the influence Nineteen Eighty-Four has exerted, and still exerts, on the literary imagination. This chapter considers the creative legacy of Nineteen Eighty-Four, looking at how writers have appropriated and adapted the literary form of Orwell’s text, and how they have responded to its visions of surveillance, state power, and erasure of identity. This chapter thus considers the status Orwell’s novel holds in the twenty-first century as a formative influence on the dystopian genre and as a text that continues to shape the way in which authors address the anxieties of their own times.
Taking a 1962 fan letter that Plath wrote to the poet Stevie Smith three months before her suicide, Noreen Masud elucidates a key context out of which Plath’s work emerged. Drawing on The Bell Jar and ranging through her poetry, Masud argues that Plath owes much to Smith’s gendered perspective, dramatic monologues, and ambivalent but darkly comic engagement with the stifling nature of suburbia.
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