Of the Alpha Male writers of the 50s and 60s (Roth, Bellow, Updike), Mailer was the biggest, the baddest, the most. His reputation and antics (wife stabbing, getting murderers released, heavy drinking, running for mayor of NYC) are inseparable from his writing. Since so much about him was excessive, it's fitting that he has a huge, intimidating oeuvre. This is his first novel and is good as any place to start. Set in the Pacific in World War II, it's a war novel without much combat or much conflict. But at least it goes on for over 700 pages. Maybe try "From Here to Eternity" instead?
In his first novel, Norman Mailer offers a realistic description of a front line soldier's experiences during World War II. The author, a veteran of America's Pacific Campaign, writes with great realism and emotional depth. Personally, I struggled through the first half of this novel, often wondering why this book is so highly regarded. I'm glad that I finished the book, because the second half is simply amazing.
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