Thursday, 1 November 2012

Deaths for the Ladies (and other disasters) by Norman Mailer (1.5/5)

I say: This is a collection of poetry that Mailer wrote while drunk and decided to put out when he sobered up. At least that’s how he explains it in the introduction.

I didn’t like this collection.
at all.
In fact
of my
when I was

That is pretty much the entire outline of his poetry and it was annoying. He did say in the introduction that he had found scraps of papers in his pockets and wherever, I’m thinking he had no recollection of writing them while drunk, and he genuinely thought this was a great collection and that all the poets would hail him as the next big thing.

Well, that didn’t happen.

Nobody cared about this collection and those who cared enough to read it panned it.


Basically it’s just a lot of random thoughts written down, repeated and made longer, without any finesse, flavour or clear object. You can tell that Mailer was on something when he wrote this. However, there were about three poems that I liked and also a couple of longer prose pieces for Hemingway that I enjoyed and that made me think that perhaps I should read his novels before judging him.

It’s not the worst poetry I’ve ever read, but it’s not far from the bottom.


  1. Drunken writing is not usually a good thing. Although I wonder how many authors out there write when they are on something. I know Stephen King has admitted to not being able to remember writing a couple of his books (I can't remember which ones but I think they were ones that I liked). So maybe it just works for some.

    I am reading a book of essays about crime writers by crime writers. Whilst there isn't an essay about Norman Mailer in there he is mentioned quite lot as an author of influence. I am guessing his novels are much better than his poetry.

    1. I think drunken writing could work when writing a novel because you have an editor to tell you when things don't make sense. With poetry, however, it's a bit more difficult. I'm not sure if his editor (if he had one) said anything about it, but the fact that everybody hated it did give him a clue that he should stick to what he knows.

      I've never read anything by Mailer - apart from this - which is kind of weird since I've known about him for what feels like ever. I should rememdy that.