Handwritten and typed manuscripts, galley proofs, screenplays, correspondence,
research materials and notes, legal, business, and financial records, photographs,
audio and video recordings, books, magazines, clippings, scrapbooks, electronic
records, drawings, and awards document the life, work, and family of Norman Mailer
from the early 1900s to 2005. The bulk of the papers arrived at the Ransom Center
rough chronological order; in general, this order has been maintained within the
following six series: I. Literary and Other Activities, 1939-2005; II.
Correspondence, 1939-2005; III. Legal and Financial, 1944-1998; IV. Family and
Personal, 1919-2001; V. Works by Others, 1946-2005; and VI. Serial Publications,
1941-2005. Most of the papers are in English, with small amounts of correspondence
and clippings in French, Spanish, German, and Yiddish or Hebrew, plus several
Series I. makes up more than half of the collection and contains extensive and
thorough records of Mailer's literary activities, dating from his entry into Harvard
in 1939 through 2005, as well as Mailer's numerous social, political, and
film-making activities. The bulk of the series consists of handwritten and typed
drafts of Mailer's books, plays, screenplays, poems, speeches, and journal
contributions, both published and unpublished. Numerous heavily revised drafts
present for his major publications, including The Naked and
the Dead (1948), Barbary Shore (1951),
The Deer Park (1955), An
American Dream (1965), The Armies of the Night:
History as a Novel, The Novel as History (1968), Of a Fire on the Moon (1971), The Executioner's
Song (1979), Ancient Evenings (1983),
Harlot's Ghost (1991), and Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery (1995). Extensive research
materials, particularly for his later works, are also found in this series;
correspondence and photographs are present to a lesser extent.
Mailer's archive encompasses a wide range of topics reflecting the depth of his
engagement in the issues and events of his lifetime: his controversial commentary
race, culture, and sexuality in The White Negro
(1957); his portrayal of women in An American Dream
(1965) and his later writing on birth control and the role of women in American
society; his commentaries on the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, the Vietnam
War and the 1967 March on the Pentagon, and Democratic and Republican political
conventions from the 1960s to the 1990s; his coverage of the 1974 heavyweight
fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire (The
Fight, 1975); his analysis of personas and events from the 1960s that
continue to loom large in the American cultural imagination, including Marilyn
Monroe, the Kennedy assassination, and Project Apollo; his contributions to the
cultural debates on capital punishment and prisoners' rights in The Executioner's Song (1979) and support of prisoner
and writer Jack Henry Abbott; and his explorations of government, espionage, race,
and criminal justice in the CIA themed novel Harlot's
Ghost (1991), and television docudramas on O. J. Simpson's murder trial and
FBI agent turned spy Robert Hanssen.
Series II. Correspondence, 1939-2005, contains incoming and outgoing letters between
Mailer and his family, friends, fans, fellow writers, politicians, activists,
and directors, scholars, business associates, and numerous other individuals and
institutions, documenting over sixty years of Mailer's life and impact on American
literature and culture. Included are letters from James Baldwin, William F. Buckley,
Jr., Truman Capote, Don DeLillo, Joan Didion, Allen Ginsberg, Lillian Hellman,
Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Henry Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, George Plimpton,
William Styron, Gore Vidal, and Kurt Vonnegut among numerous others.
The extensive legal and business records contained in Series III. Legal and
Financial complement Mailer's works and correspondence. These records include
contracts, investment and real estate documents, tax records, and household bills
and receipts that illuminate Mailer's business endeavors, lifestyle, work habits,
and day-to-day activities. These records are subdivided into two subseries
reflecting their origins from Mailer's attorney and Mailer's agent: A. Charles
"Cy" Rembar and B. Scott Meredith Literary Agency.
Series IV. Family and Personal is the smallest of the six series. It is arranged
into two subseries: A. Family and B. Personal. The bulk of the material originated
with or was collected by Mailer's parents. Included is correspondence from their
courtship, records from later international travels, scrapbooks, memorabilia,
family photos. Also in the series are letters between Mailer's parents and extended
family, and letters from Mailer to his parents.
Of particular note are Mailer's childhood writings and memorabilia. Other materials
include letters, writing, and personal records from Mailer's first wife, Bea,
narratives written by his mother, and stories written by his sister Barbara
Wasserman. Also present are Mailer's address and appointment books, passports,
gambling records, all dating from his adulthood.
The bulk of the photographs found in Mailer's papers are also located in Series IV.
and include professional and informal images of Mailer, research photographs for
works, his book jacket portraits, photodocumentation of his activities, and Mailer
family photographs. Of note are images from early 1960s portrait sessions with
Arbus and Richard Avedon, and original prints of the Bruce Davidson photographs
accompanied Mailer's 1960 Esquire piece "Brooklyn Minority Report: 'She
Thought the Russians Was Coming.'"
Series V. Works by Other People contains published and unpublished works from
Mailer's family, friends, other well-known writers, aspiring authors, and students.
Included are works by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, J. Michael Lennon, Robert
Lucid, Norris Church Mailer, Norman Podhoretz, Diana Trilling, and Dotson Rader.
Series VI. consists of serial publications containing interviews of or pieces by
Mailer. Arranged alphabetically, they represent a small and incomplete portion
the total number of articles published by Mailer.
There are no film prints or copies of Mailer's late-1960s experimental films Beyond the Law, Wild 90 ,
and Maidstone in the archive, but the movies are
documented through business and financial records from Mailer's short-lived film
company, Supreme Mix. Publicity materials, review clippings, and extensive
production photos and movie stills complement the business records. The
Mailer-directed, major studio adaptation of his book Tough
Guys Don't Dance is well documented with correspondence, production
materials, audition video tapes, and audience surveys.
Books, audio-visual materials, electronic records, and personal effects have been
transferred to other departments within the Ransom Center. See the Transferred
Materials description for further details.