A towering figure in American literature, Norman Mailer has in recent years reached a new level of accessibility and power. His last novel, The Castle in the Forest, revealed fascinating ideas about faith and the nature of good and evil. Now Mailer offers his concept of the nature of God. His conversations with his friend and literary executor, Michael Lennon, show this writer at his most direct, provocative, and challenging. “I think,” writes Mailer, “that piety is oppressive. It takes all the air out of thought.”
In moving, amusing, probing, and uncommon dialogues conducted over three years but whose topics he has considered for decades, Mailer establishes his own system of belief, one that rejects both organized religion and atheism. He presents instead a view of our world as one created by an artistic God who often succeeds but can also fail in the face of determined opposition by contrary powers in the universe, with whom war is waged for the souls of humans. In turn, we have been given freedom—indeed responsibility—to choose our own paths. Mailer trusts that our individual behavior—always a complex mix of good and evil—will be rewarded or punished with a reincarnation that fits the sum of our lives.
Mailer weighs the possibilities of “intelligent design” at the same time avowing that sensual pleasures were bestowed on us by God; he finds fault with the Ten Commandments—because adultery, he avers, may be a lesser evil than others suffered in a bad marriage—and he holds that technology was the devil’s most brilliant creation.
In short, Mailer is original and unpredictable in thisinspiring verbal journey, a unique vision of the world in which “God needs us as much as we need God.”
From The Naked and the Dead to The Executioner’s Song and beyond, Mailer’s major works have engaged such themes as war, politics, culture, and sex. Now, in this small yet important book, Mailer, in a modest, well-spoken style, gives us fresh ways to think about the largest subject of them all.