“An American Dream” by Norman Mailer

I just finished reading Mailer’s “An American Dream” and let me tell you, it was bizarre. I read the back cover before I began reading the novel (as I always do) and it caught my attention. “[O]ne night, in the prime of his existence, [Rojack] hears the moon talking to him on the terrace of a fasionable New York high-rise, and it is urging him to kill himself. It is almost as a defense against that infinitely seductive voice that Rojack murders his wife.”

Sounds captivating right? The moon talks to Rojack (the main character) so the novel almost sets itself up as a science fiction read, but surprisingly it’s not. Mailer’s novel follows Rojack after he murders his wife – the police station, mobsters, women, sex, and suicide.

The terrace mentioned in the back cover comes back in the novel several times, mainly when Rojack is in the picture. It seems to play an important role since the novel starts with a terrace and ends with a terrace.

I’ve never read anything about Mailer before “An American Dream” which I read for a seminar I’m taking. I was warned that Mailer is a very “macho” writer and focuses more on his male characters and making them seem strong and “manly” while his female characters aren’t all that strong. I found this to be partly true. Most of the characters in this novel are men who are trying to show their “manliness,” but the women in the novel seem pretty strong. Although Rojack’s wife is murdered early in the novel, her presence is seen through to the end of the work. Secrets revealed about the women in the novel show their strength and perhaps even their strength over the men in the novel.

Overall I thought this was a good read. For those who’ve never read Mailer and those who have, I recommend this novel. It has its gruesome bits and it’s crazy bits, but all in all it’s a good and interesting read. It pulls you in pretty quickly and you just end up wanting to know what happens to Rojack in the end. Give it a try.

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