An American Dream (novel)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"An American Dream" is Norman Mailer's fourth novel, published in 1965. Mailer wrote it in serialized form for Esquire Magazine, consciously attempting to resurrect the methodology used by Charles Dickens and other earlier novelists.

The book's protagonist, Stephen Rojack, is a former war-hero and congressman, a talk-show host, and is an embodiment of the American Dream. In an alcoholic rage, Rojack murders his estranged wife, a high society woman, and descends into a lurid underworld of Manhattan jazz clubs, bars, and Mafia intrigue. The novel was written in serialized form for Esquire Magazine, with Mailer writing each chapter against monthly deadlines. The book is written in a poetic style heavy with metaphor that creates unique and hypnotizing narrative and dialogue.

The book was controversial for its portrayal and treatment of women, and was singled out for especially harsh critique by Feminist critic Kate Millett in her groundbreaking study of the treatment of women in literature, Sexual Politics. Mailer responded to the criticisms of Millett and other feminists in his own polemic The Prisoner of Sex, where he avoids defending himself directly, instead speaking his own case through an extended defense of two other writers who were also singled out by Millett, Henry Miller and D. H. Lawrence. The novel was edited by for book publication by E. L. Doctorow.The reviews for "An American Dream" were mixed, and for years the conventional wisdom was that the novel was one of Mailer's lesser novels. The book has its strong defenders, though, and its reputation has risen over the decades.

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