Collection of Norman Mailer's writing finds new publisher
New York — An anthology of the late Norman Mailer's writing that Random House allegedly scheduled for his centennial in 2023 but backed off from, will be released by Skyhorse Publishing. The publisher has taken on such discarded works as Woody Allen's memoir “Apropos of Nothing” and a Philip Roth biography written by Blake Bailey.
Andrew Wylie, whose literary agency represents the Mailer estate, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Skyhorse Publishing will release the book and that Random House has waived any reprint fees. He said that such details as the book's contents, title and date of publication were still to be determined.
"Random House is proud to publish Norman Mailer, and intends to promote his work significantly for the centennial, in tandem with the publication by Skyhorse of the anthology," Wylie wrote in an email. “The Mailer family and Random House are united in support of Norman’s work.”
A Skyhorse spokesperson was not immediately able to confirm there was a deal for the Mailer book. Skyhorse is an independent publisher that has made a name for itself in recent years by signing up such authors as Allen, Bailey, Garrison Keillor and others the mainstream industry has distanced itself from, for reasons ranging from allegations of sexual harassment to sexual assault. Skyhouse also is the publisher of the inflammatory bestseller “The Real Anthony Fauci,” by anti-vaccine crusader Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Wylie disputed a report by the online publication The Ankler, which alleged Random House dropped the project because of misgivings about some of Mailer's work, notably “The White Negro." In Mailer's 1957 essay, he wrote of Blacks as being models of non-conformity for hipster whites, living in “the enormous present,” letting go “the pleasures of the mind for the more obligatory pleasures of the body.”
James Baldwin chastised Mailer for perpetuating the “myth of the sexuality of Negros”
Asked if he would confirm the Ankler report, Wylie said “That's not the issue at all.” Asked why Random House was not publishing the book, Wylie called it an “editorial decision” and added “There is really no issue here.”
Mailer, who died in 2007, was among the most famous and controversial authors in his lifetime and has long been a signature part of Random House's legacy, which includes such Mailer peers as Truman Capote and William Styron. He was the recipient of Pulitzer Prizes for “The Armies of the Night” and “The Executioner's Song,” but was also widely condemned for his writing on race, for his admittedly misogynist opinions and for the stabbing of his second wife, Adele Morales, in 1960.
While news of Random House not publishing the new collection led to allegations on social media that Mailer was being “cancelled,” his books remain widely available through Random House and the Library of America, which has been releasing permanent bound editions of his work. “The White Negro” can easily be found online, including Dissent magazine, where the essay first appeared.
But interest in his work has sharply faded, especially compared to such contemporaries as Baldwin. According to NPD BookScan, which tracks around 85% of the print market, combined sales for four of Mailer's best known books — “The Armies of the Night,” “The Naked and the Dead,” “The Executioner's Song” and “The Fight” — were under 4,000 copies in 2021.
One of Mailer's sons, Michael Mailer, told the AP that Random House suggested a centennial project. The family, along with Mailer biographer J. Michael Lennon, “put together a proposal for a collection of political essays on democracy which they liked and then decided later not to proceed due to objections, putatively, from certain junior executives.”
A Random House spokesperson did not respond directly to allegations about the book's contents, saying in a statement: “It is factually incorrect that Random House cancelled an upcoming book of essays by Norman Mailer. We did not have this collection under contract. Random House does continue to publish much of Norman Mailer’s backlist.”