Norman Mailer
Quotations


We live in a time which has created the art of the absurd. It is our art. It contains happenings, Pop art, camp, a theater of the absurd. . . . Do we have the art because the absurd is the patina of waste? . . . Or are we face to face with a desperate or most rational effort from the deepest resources of the unconscious of us all to rescue civilization from the pit and plague of its bedding?

I donít think life is absurd. I think we are all here for a huge purpose. I think we shrink from the immensity of the purpose we are here for.

The final purpose of art is to intensify, even, if necessary, to exacerbate, the moral consciousness of people.

Every moment of oneís existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit.

New York is one of the capitals of the world and Los Angeles is a constellation of plastic, San Francisco is a lady, Boston has become Urban Renewal, Philadelphia and Baltimore and Washington blink like dull diamonds in the smog of Eastern Megalopolis, and New Orleans is unremarkable past the French Quarter. Detroit is a one-trade town, Pittsburgh has lost its golden triangle, St. Louis has become the golden arch of the corporation, and nights in Kansas City close early. The oil depletion allowance makes Houston and Dallas naught but checkerboards for this sort of game. But Chicago is a great American city. Perhaps it is the last of the great American cities.

America is a hurricane, and the only people who do not hear the sound are those fortunate if incredibly stupid and smug White Protestants who live in the center, in the serene eye of the big wind.

A modern democracy is a tyranny whose borders are undefined; one discovers how far one can go only by traveling in a straight line until one is stopped.

At bottom, I mean profoundly at bottom, the FBI has nothing to do with Communism, it has nothing to do with catching criminals, it has nothing to do with the Mafia, the syndicate, it has nothing to do with trust-busting, it has nothing to do with interstate commerce, it has nothing to do with anything but serving as a church for the mediocre. A high church for the true mediocre.

Oneís condition on marijuana is always existential. One can feel the importance of each moment and how it is changing one. One feels oneís being, one becomes aware of the enormous apparatus of nothingness -- the hum of a hi-fi set, the emptiness of a pointless interruption, one becomes aware of the war between each of us, how the nothingness in each of us seeks to attack the being of others, how our being in turn is attacked by the nothingness in others.

We are close to dead. There are faces and bodies like gorged maggots on the dance floor, on the highway, in the city, in the stadium; they are a host of chemical machines who swallow the product of chemical factories, aspirin, preservatives, stimulant, relaxant, and breathe out their chemical wastes into a polluted air. The sense of a long last night over civilization is back again.

Ultimately a hero is a man who would argue with the gods, and so awakens devils to contest his vision. The more a man can achieve, the more he may be certain that the devil will inhabit a part of his creation.

There is probably no sensitive heterosexual alive who is not preoccupied with his latent homosexuality.

Because there is very little honor left in American life, there is a certain built-in tendency to destroy masculinity in American men.

Iím hostile to men, Iím hostile to women, Iím hostile to cats, to poor cockroaches, Iím afraid of horses.

In America few people will trust you unless you are irreverent.

Each day a few more lies eat into the seed with which we are born, little institutional lies from the print of newspapers, the shock waves of television, and the sentimental cheats of the movie screen.

Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor.

What characterizes a member of a minority group is that he is forced to see himself as both exceptional and insignificant, marvelous and awful, good and evil.

The sickness of our times for me has been just this damn thing that everything has been getting smaller and smaller and less and less important, that the romantic spirit has dried up, that there is no shame today. . . . Weíre all getting so mean and small and petty and ridiculous, and we all live under the threat of extermination.

Obsession is the single most wasteful human activity, because with an obsession you keep coming back and back and back to the same question and never get an answer.

Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child.

Thereís a subterranean impetus towards pornography so powerful that half the business world is juiced by the sort of half sex that one finds in advertisements.

The White Protestantís ultimate sympathy must be with science, factology, and committee rather than with sex, birth, heat, flesh, creation, the sweet and the funky; they must vote, manipulate, control, and direct, these Protestants who are the center of power in our land, they must go for what they believe is reason when it is only the Square logic of the past.

Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment.

There is nothing safe about sex. There never will be.

Hip is the sophistication of the wise primitive in a giant jungle.

The difference between writing a book and being on television is the difference between conceiving a child and having a baby made in a test tube.

The horror of the Twentieth Century was the size of each new event, and the paucity of its reverberation.

There is one expanding horror in American life. It is that our long odyssey toward liberty, democracy and freedom-for-all may be achieved in such a way that utopia remains forever closed, and we live in freedom and hell, debased of style, not individual from one another, void of courage, our fear rationalized away.

In America all too few blows are struck into flesh. We kill the spirit here, we are experts at that. We use psychic bullets and kill each other cell by cell.

Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.



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