"I take it for granted that there's a side of me that loves public action, and there's another side of me that really wants to be alone and work and write. And I've learned to alternate the two as matters develop."
The most publicly engaged and controversial American writer of the last half-century, Norman Mailer won American literature's most distinguished honors for both fiction and non-fiction, although much of his best work deliberately tested the limits of these traditional categories.
His experiences as a soldier in World War II provided the raw material for his first novel, The Naked and the Dead. Acclaimed for its realism, it was an immediate best-seller, and remains the most praised American novel of the Second World War. In the 1950s and '60s, Mailer became increasingly involved in politics and public affairs. In 1967 he was arrested at the Pentagon during a demonstration against the Vietnam War. His account of these events in Armies of the Night won the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction. Norman Mailer received the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Executioner's Song, his account of the real life and death of the convicted murderer Gary Gilmore.
In a 60-year career, he wrote over 40 books, and while his personal involvement in politics culminated with a flamboyant campaign for Mayor of New York City in 1969, he remained, to the end of his days, an active and outspoken observer of American public life.