December 26, 2013
Norman Mailer, Sportswriter

Norman Mailer’s writing career spanned almost 60 years, over which he produced more than 40 books, winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (The Executioner’s Song) and the Pulitzer and National Book award for nonfiction (The Armies of the Night). Yet, as J. Michael Lennon notes in his sumptuous new biography, Norman Mailer: A Double Life, despite laudatory reviews, Mailer had “mixed feelings” over The Fight, his account of the 1974 heavyweight championship fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire. He wondered if spending half a year on it had been worthwhile. But reading Lennon’s biography’s “making-of” details about The Fight, I found myself thrilled by the story all over again.
A cardinal rule among sportswriters is to never openly root for a team, player or a fighter. One should always be cool and objective, or at least pretend to be. But Mailer openly and passionately pulled for his favorites, and it made his work jump off the page at you. In Zaire, according to Lennon, Mailer ardently believed that a victory by Ali would be “A triumph for everything which did not fit into the computer: for audacity, inventiveness, even art.”
Read more. [Image: AP/Bebeto Matthews]

Norman Mailer, Sportswriter

Norman Mailer’s writing career spanned almost 60 years, over which he produced more than 40 books, winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (The Executioner’s Song) and the Pulitzer and National Book award for nonfiction (The Armies of the Night). Yet, as J. Michael Lennon notes in his sumptuous new biography, Norman Mailer: A Double Life, despite laudatory reviews, Mailer had “mixed feelings” over The Fight, his account of the 1974 heavyweight championship fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire. He wondered if spending half a year on it had been worthwhile. But reading Lennon’s biography’s “making-of” details about The Fight, I found myself thrilled by the story all over again.

A cardinal rule among sportswriters is to never openly root for a team, player or a fighter. One should always be cool and objective, or at least pretend to be. But Mailer openly and passionately pulled for his favorites, and it made his work jump off the page at you. In Zaire, according to Lennon, Mailer ardently believed that a victory by Ali would be “A triumph for everything which did not fit into the computer: for audacity, inventiveness, even art.”

Read more. [Image: AP/Bebeto Matthews]

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