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British Association for American Studies


Issue 3, Spring 2003: Article 3


Issue 3, Spring 2003: Article 3

U.S. Studies Online: The BAAS Postgraduate Journal

Issue 3, Spring 2003: Special Conference Edition

Norman Mailer and Pop: Totalitarianism and mass culture in The Naked and the Dead

Scott Duguid
© Scott Duguid. All Rights Reserved

When Norman Mailer went to serve as a rifleman in the Pacific theatre during World War II, he went with the specific intention of writing the definitive novel of the conflict.The resulting work, The Naked and the Dead, was published in 1948 and was an immediate critical and commercial success. At the age of 25, Mailer was famous, and the result was an identity crisis that has fuelled his literary imagination ever since. Taking its cue from the social realist novels of the twenties and thirties, most notably those of John Dos Passos, the novel provided sustenance for a reading public hungry for naturalistic detail about the conflict. Just as readers of Moby Dick invariably learn a quantity of arcane whaling lore, Mailer’s first novel documents the minutiae of army life in documentary detail. From a certain critical perspective, the novel has become definitive of its author. So authoritative was its early fame that Mailer is frequently regarded as a direct descendant of the social realists that so decisively influenced the novel. The novel emulates, but does not represent a significant stylistic advance from those novelists Mailer devoured at Harvard in the late thirties/early forties, including Dos Passos, John Steinbeck and James T. Farrell; its innovation was rather, as Diana Trilling saw it, that it brought to a ‘familiar subject the informing view of a new and radically altered generation’. [1]

From a more recent perspective, The Naked and the Dead seems even more entrenched in the style of its predecessors; but perhaps we are better placed than Trilling was to locate what was developing from this ‘informing view’. The dominant realism of The Naked and the Dead must be acknowledged, but the main purpose of this paper will be to read against it to examine how it anticipates certain emergent trends that might come under a broad rubric of the ‘postmodern’. Two separate critical frameworks present themselves. The first is that The Naked and the Dead is frequently regarded as a novel with a direct anti-fascist, anti-totalitarian political thesis. In this, it was very much in the mood of the immediate post-war and early Cold War literary and intellectual environment (for example, George Orwell was among the admirers of the work). Further, as Nigel Leigh has noted, Mailer’s novel reflected a pervasive fear on the AmericanLeft of a home-spun American fascism, a fear most acutely if not accurately expressed by Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party, backed by Mailer in the 1948 election finally won by Truman. [2] The second framework that presents itself is that The Naked and the Dead arrives at a median point in the development of the American novel. Mailer’s novel falls quite uneasily between two literary generations, concomitant with a re-appraisal of the category of the novel itself, as well as an epistemological and aesthetic crisis for art in the round. This crisis, lucidly examined by Fredric Jameson in the essay ‘‘End of Art’ or ‘End of History’’ (1994), usually marks the beginnings of postmodernism in the sixties. Although Mailer was a product of the earlier literary and intellectual generation, it is this decade and milieu that coincides with his own most creatively fertile period.

What I want to do is more than reassess the oeuvre of one particular writer by an appeal to an examination of genre, although this is in part desirable. The central contention of this paper is that the historical political argument of The Naked and the Dead is inseparable from a discussion of its own internal aesthetics and external emergent cultural forms and styles, specifically that of Pop Art.The paper will begin by offering a brief account of certain critical readings of Mailer’s first novel, and in particular, how critics have assessed its apparently anti-fascist stance. It will then proceed to extend this critical history by a close reading of the novel’s ending, which deviates stylistically from the prevalent texture of naturalism. Does this foreshadow a postmodern aesthetics, or does it position itself with a negative assessment of mass culture evident in the writings of the Frankfurt School and post-war New York intellectuals?

The action of The Naked and the Dead takes place on an entirely fictitious island in the Pacific called Anopopei.Aside from interspersed ‘Time Capsule’ episodes, where we see portraits of the soldiers’ civilian lives, the novel is about Americans far from home, threatened by a largely invisible Japanese ‘other’ and a hostile natural environment. Anopopei is nevertheless a divided America in miniature, where distinctions of class, ethnicity, religion and geography are not so much erased, as repressed. The sadistic hierarchy of the military, embodied in the proto-fascist General Cummings, is not only an allegory of a nation crippled by an experience of Depression, but also the vision of a potentially fascist future. The novel’s plot vacillates between two estranged and incommensurable spheres: those of the enlisted men and the officers. This early novel was naively but consciously Marxist, and its enlisted men are profoundly alienated from the officer class, and effectively from the products of their own military ‘labour’.

For most commentators, the ideological centre of the novel consists in the scenes between the quasi-fascist General Cummings and Lieutenant Hearn. Cummings is very much the author of the Anopopei campaign; his insistence is that the army should be rigidly controlled by means of a ‘fear ladder’ [3], and he also acts as a prophet of a home-spun popular American fascism. This conflict between Cummings and Hearn is usually read as a sophisticated engagement between totalitarianism and liberalism. Their scenes are compelling as ideological debate, but more than that are a sustained literary study in the use of top-down power and sadism. Considerable dramatic energy is expended in these passages, and Cummings’ totalistic power is seemingly affirmed by the final humiliation and death of Hearn, an inexperienced officer sent out on the abortive reconnaissance mission that constitutes the novel’s final section. However, the campaign is finally won not by Cummings’ strategic brilliance, but through the inadvertent actions of the bureaucratic Major Dalleson in Cummings’ absence. Much of the novel’s narrative power dissipates with this failure of the will to power; the terrifying fascist future, it seems, was already anachronistic. As Michael K. Glenday notes, ‘Mailer’s conclusion dramatises his view that the political future belongs not to dangerous mystics like Cummings, but rather to the system’s slaves, men like Major Dalleson […] it was Dalleson, not Cummings, who epitomised the safe mediocrity of American decline’. [4] Cummings’s disproportionate, and eventually dissipated, dramatic energy leaves us with a conclusion that several critics have regarded as anti-climactic. Donald Pizer deals with this fall off by arguing that: ‘The Naked and the Dead is naturalistic fiction rather than fiction modeled on Shakespearean tragedy, and in naturalism the symmetry of high tragedy – of a fall to death – is often replaced by the anti-climax of mixed and ambivalent conclusions’. [5] There will be more to say about the tragic, but useful as Pizer’s analysis is it seems insufficient to simply appeal to the exigencies of genre and mode.

Many readings of the novel emphasise that the novel is about the fragility of personality and the human subject in the context of a vast technological social machine. Nevertheless, one paradox that the novel posits is that Cummings contains transcendental energies, which countermand such a reading. Glenday writes that, ‘For all that must be said against the fascist disposition of Cummings or Croft, both men possess qualities which fly in the face of machine mentality’. [6] This contradiction Joseph Wenke sees as saying something fundamental about totalitarianism: ‘Though a totalitarian movement may well have its origins in a powerful and charismatic personality committed to risk-taking as a means of achieving power, totalitarian institutions gravitate inexorably toward a consolidation of power and an elimination of personality’. [7] This is consistent with the heterogeneous theory of personality that Georges Bataille espouses in his essay ‘The Psychological Structure of Fascism’.For Bataille, totalising or fascistic institutions, most notably at the level of the nation state, are profoundly homogeneous in their forms of expression (which is to say rigid and uniform).Nevertheless, homogeneous society secures its coherence by the expulsion of heterogeneous elements, whether in the form of higher elements such as leaders, or lower social elements, the example Bataille uses being India’s ‘untouchable’ lower castes.(Bataille’s argument depends upon the double meaning of sacer – sacred and impure – that was conventional in early twentieth century social anthropology).Bataille’s analysis of the structure of the army has application for The Naked and the Dead:

The glory of the chief essentially constitutes a sort of affective pole opposed to the nature of the soldiers. Even independently of their horrible occupation, the soldiers belong as a rule to a vile segment of the population […] But even the elimination of enlistments from the lower classes would fail to change the deeper structure of the army; this structure would continue to base affective organisation upon the social infamy of the soldiers. Human beings incorporated into the army are but negated elements, negated with a kind of rage (a sadism) manifest in the tone of each command, negated by the parade, by the uniform, and by the geometric regularity of cadenced movements. The chief, insofar as he is imperative, is the incarnation of this violent negation. His intimate nature, the nature of his glory, is constituted by an imperative act that annuls the wretched populace (which constitutes the army) as such. [8]

Essential to Bataille’s point is that the homogeneous core of the army need not derive from an inherently homogeneous lower class. In fact, Mailer’s novel emphatically illustrates this thesis in a specifically American context, at the nexus of class and race. It is not just that middle-class New Yorker’s are fighting beside rural Southerner’s, but also that Hispanics are fighting next to Jews, intellectuals next to drifters. The homogeneous is not the communal, since the novel seems to imply that America’s communal experience of Depression leading into World War has only savagely exacerbated social and racial division; any equality the novel presents is only an equality of abjection. However, Mailer suggests a possible resistance to the ‘geometric regularity’ of social control lies in the enlistments’s coarse obscene language and earthy sexuality, which he associates with a bottom-up American democratic freedom. The question then might be: does The Naked and the Dead fulfil a function of the humanistic novel, and succeed in individuating its men as a form of resistance to the social model of a Cummings? Cummings himself suggests not:

In the army the idea of individual personality is just a hindrance. Sure, there are differences among men in any particular Army unit, but they invariably cancel each other out, and what you’re left with is a value rating. Such and such a company is good or poor, effective or ineffective for such or such a mission. I work with grosser techniques, common denominator techniques. (140)

As Bataille writes, ‘the mass that constitutes the army passes from a depleted and ruined existence to a purified geometric order’. [9] Cummings is an agent of this depersonalising, unifying principle. Yet, as several critics have noted, Cummings embodies a contrary principle, of a charismatic, transcendental self.Leigh writes that Cummings has a ‘basic originality, the fact that Cummings cannot be reduced to a particular system’, and it is this originality ‘which so impresses Hearn’. [10] For Bataille, the heterogeneous fascist leader is precisely irreducible and inassimilable.

Yet, Mailer is evidently interested in exploring the limitations of the totalising will to power that Cummings seems to embody. What might this limitation be? Several critics have held that the novel displays a universe where human agency is profoundly delimited by chance. Joseph Wenke writes that Cummings ‘has difficulty countermanding the lethargy of the troops, and at the end of the book he is forced to admit that he really cannot force ‘the circuits of chance’, that, in fact, the battle for Anopopei has been won without him’. [11] Glenday is more explicit: ‘Chance, in the shape of Major Dalleson, defeats’ Cummings [12].These views seem to support a naturalist and determinist reading of The Naked and the Dead.And surely this is a real confusion in the novel, since chance really does play a decisive role in the action. Croft’s mission to scale Mt. Anaka is finally thwarted not by internal class struggle amongst the men, or by the Japanese enemy, but by a disturbed hornets’s nest. But there are other factors operating in Anopopei, which might complicate any view that prescribes Dalleson as a representative of the arbitrary. In a much misquoted passage, Cummings contemplates that:

For a moment he almost admitted that he had very little of perhaps nothing to do with this victory, or indeed any victory – it had been accomplished by a random play of luck larded into a casual net of factors too large, too vague, for him to comprehend [my italics] (536).

The powerlessness of the (here fascist) agent, then, is only partially to do with chance. It also has to do with what is referred to as the postmodern sublime. That which is unrepresentable is no longer to be found in nature or in the universe, but rather in a combination of systematic factors: military, technological, economic, and indeed naturalistic in this instance. In a persuasive analysis of Mailer’s book on the moon landings, Of A Fire on the Moon (1970), Joseph Tabbi defines the postmodern sublime as referring to ‘networks of power and corporate control beyond the comprehension of any single mind or imagination’ [13], words that directly recall Cummings. Leigh’s reading of The Naked and the Dead succinctly defines the novel’s major debate:

The Naked and the Dead’s conflict with itself embodies a current debate within the social sciences between those who perceive power as exercised by agents, and those who see it as the result of structural factors. In other words, The Naked and the Dead is poised between voluntaristic and structuralist conceptions of the world […]

Cummings and Croft are effectively alienated from the military system and the political future. Mailer realizes that Major Dalleson, the organization man, is in ascendance […] The image the novel leaves us with therefore is Dalleson’s inane obeisance to structuralistic power [14]

It is certainly the case that Mailer’s work, from the very beginning and to this day, is preoccupied with a ‘great men’ theory of the historical process, but this visionary stance lies in debate with just this obverse ‘structuralist’ view.It is a commonplace of postmodern theory, particularly that of Lyotard, that one feature of the postmodern is a diminishment of the allure of authority figures, and especially political leaders (concomitant perhaps with the so-called crisis of subjectivity and the death of the author). Although postmodernism is increasingly credited with its own sublime, it seems apparent that writers such as Bataille explicitly, and Mailer implicitly, are charting precisely an historical loss of the sublime, which might in part explain The Naked and the Dead’s disavowal of the tragic. The swamp of sensuous, sublime historical energies is being drained by profoundly non-sensuous set of capitalist relations (which is one reason why both writers look back to primitive, pre-modern epistemologies).Indeed, several critics have noticed a secret admiration and endorsement of the fascistic energies of Cummings (and Sergeant Croft) in Mailer’s novel, which directly belies its declared anti-fascist position.

Mailer is in this sense a kind of novelistic historian, but his preoccupations have tended to be more broadly intellectual, and in particular aesthetic. As is well known, authority in the post-war period has seemed to be in decline in literature and art as well as politics. One might perhaps characterise the later Mailer as a variety of Lawrentian modernist, who grants art and the fecundity of sublime imagination an extraordinarily redemptive social role. This is beginning to be superseded culturally by a morally neutral postmodernism (although he does not use the term) that is beginning to place image ahead of inner imagination, to radically displace notions of transcendental truth, to blur the distinction between high/low art, and to undermine a humanistic conception of the modern novel. Resistance to this cultural erosion of identity is to be found in obscenity, sexuality, art, and high literary style.Already in this first novel, we can glimpse a deep umbilical relation of aesthetics and politics. Leigh is correct in saying that ‘The image the novel leaves us with therefore is Dalleson’s inane obeisance to structuralistic power’, but few critics examine this conclusion’s eccentric style. The very final pages of the book see Dalleson, after the mop-up of the Anopopei campaign, devising a schedule for a training program, ‘the part of military life that the Major found most congenial’ (538-539):

At this moment he got his idea. He could jazz up the map-reading class by having a full-size color photograph of Betty Grable in a bathing suit, with the co-ordinate grid system laid over it. The instructor could point to different parts of her and say, ‘Give me the co-ordinates.’

Goddam, what an idea! The Major chuckled out of sheer pleasure. It would make those troopers wake up and pay some attention in map class.

But where was he going to get a life-sized photograph? […]

Dalleson scratched his head. He could write a letter to Army Headquarter, Special Services. They probably wouldn’t have Grable, but any pin-up girl would do. That was it. He’d write Army. And in the meantime he might send a letter to the War Department Training Aids Section. They were out for improvements like that. The Major could see every unit in the Army using his idea at last. He clenched his fists with excitement.

Hot Dog! (539-540)

Here, in this odd comic ending, the dominant and claustrophobic texture of naturalism seems to unpeel at the corners. Instead, this passage seems to anticipate the grotesque black humour of the comic novels of the nineteen-sixties. Glenday does note that this conclusion anticipates Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 in its comic tone [15], and in the sixties Mailer is beginning to praise the ‘moral surrealism’ [16] of writers such as Heller, William Burroughs, and Terry Southern. In his own work, Mailer’s proclivity for the grotesque was being displayed as early as his second novel Barbary Shore (1951) and the short story ‘The Man Who Studied Yoga’ (1952).The Naked and the Dead owes much to Dos Passos, but the shift of mode at the novel’s conclusion in turn owes much to Dos Passos’s contemporary Nathanael West, a demonstrable though rarely cited influence on Mailer. Recent criticism on West, most notably by Rita Bernard, has attempted to explain West’s estrangement from the thirties literary canon by arguing that his work focuses not on the milieu of labour and production that the social realists were charting, but on the contrary to an emergent consumerism [17]. Once seen as high modernist, West’s satirical works are now frequently regarded as anticipating the postmodern comic novel of the sixties and Pop Art.

Fig1. Betty Grable: http://

The contention here is that this apparently formal question has direct relevance to The Naked and the Dead’s historical argument. Why does The Naked and the Dead conclude with such a Hollywood ending? Dalleson’s girlie-picture map of Betty Grable is not an inappropriate image for a novel on World War II. During the war, Grable was one of the most readily identifiable entertainers in the world, and particularly well known to men in the armed forces for whom she was an ubiquitous pin-up. Mailer’s inclusion of an image from mass culture must then, be understood in the intellectual context of the 1940s. The Frankfurt School is of course most closely associated with a critique of mass culture, but this had a particular domestic context for Americans. The emergence of the New York intellectual, dating approximately from the Partisan Review’s restart in 1937 with a new anti-Stalinist but initially still socialist agenda, was concomitant with a comprehensively negative assessment of mass culture. This stance on mass culture was replicated by even the most dissident intellectuals. According to Andrew Ross, ‘Mailer, [C. Wright] Mills, [Irving] Howe, and others largely agreed with the picture which the Frankfurt School provided of a populace of dopes, dupes, and robots mechanically delivered into passivity and conformity by the monolithic channels of the mass media and the culture industries’. [18] Although Ross undoubtedly overstates the direct influence of the Frankfurt School (at this point based in Columbia University) on the New York intellectuals, who had come to a similar conclusion on the subject largely on their own, it is accurate to suggest that Mailer shared this assessment particularly strongly at this early stage in his career, although he himself, a young, unpublished, and politically naïve author, had few direct links to the intellectual establishment. (His propulsion to fame would modify this state of affairs somewhat). Mailer never abandoned his perception of the negative effects of mass culture, but his later celebration of Hip culture in his essay ‘The White Negro’ (1957) would perhaps mark a break from the prevailing view of ‘serious’ American intellectuals. Further, his later engagement with postmodernism became far closer to that of Susan Sontag, whose 1964 ‘Notes on Camp’ [19], an essay that seems to have deeply influenced Mailer’s writings on aesthetics, would voice ample reservations about the cultural forms it also celebrated.

Fig2. Hommage á Chrysler Corporation:

Certainly there was a qualified enthusiasm on Mailer’s part for Pop Art, and in particular Andy Warhol, who prompted Mailer’s experiments in film in the late sixties. If he did not share what has often been considered Pop’s morally and politically neutral celebration of mass culture, the imagery he would evoke frequently bears comparison with Pop’s concerns. Like Warhol, Mailer was fascinated by the phenomenon of fame, and constructed his own distinct cultural iconography of figures such as Marilyn Monroe, Richard Nixon, and Muhammad Ali, among others. Further, early Pop Art works by Richard Hamilton, such as Hommage á Chrysler Corporation and Hers is a Lush Situation (both 1957) noted, in David MacCarthy’s words, ‘the formal parallels between automobile and female form’ [20]. Mailer himself noted these formal connections in a piece entitled ‘A Note on Comparative Pornography’, published at around the same time as Hamilton’s work:

Talk of pornography ought to begin at the modern root: advertising. Ten years ago the advertisements sold the girl with the car – the not altogether unfair connection of the unconscious mind was that the owner of a new convertible was on the way to getting a new girl. Today the girl means less than the machine. A car is sold not because it will help one to get a girl, but because it already is a girl. The leather of its seats is worked to a near-skin, the colour is lipstick-pink, or a blonde’s pale-green, the tail-lights are cloacal, the rear is split like the cheeks of a drum majorette. [21]

Its possible to see in Dalleson’s Betty Grable map, a piece of proto-Pop Art that anticipates the sexual iconography of Hamilton, Warhol, and Peter Blake.As a novel fundamentally preoccupied with masculinity, The Naked and the Dead closes with one of its few female images. Mass culture, of course, has often been constructed as feminine, in contradistinction either to a masculine, rugged and politically serious social realism on one hand, or on the other to an aesthetically serious high art, unsullied by commerce and dominated by the man of genius in command of sublime creative power. Fredric Jameson has suggested that the ‘end of art’ debates of the 1960s did not indicate that art itself was ending, but rather that there was a radical shift in the function of art from the sublime to the beautiful. (According to this high-Hegelian argument, theory would fill the gap). [22] The specific gender associations of these aesthetic categories are well known (although Jameson does not raise them), and it is reasonable to infer that what Playboy magazine called ‘the womanization of America’ [23] has something to do with mass culture as well as the emerging feminist movement.

One of Mailer’s more obvious preoccupations in the novel is with male sexuality, and particularly sexuality in transition. (A controversial aspect of the novel was its employment of four-letter words, which at this point were still not tolerated by publishers or the public. An oddity of the novel is that the word ‘fug’ replaces the word ‘fuck’ throughout). The defining sexual event of the period was the publication of the Kinsey Report (full title Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male) in 1948. The Kinsey report, one of the key American documents of the century, collated an extraordinary quantity of statistical data on male sexual practise. The Naked and the Dead was the big book of that year, but that was just a novel; the publication of the Kinsey Report had implications that were seismic in comparison. Nevertheless, according to Clifford Maskovsky, who served with Mailer during the war, Mailer had conducted his own Kinsey Report in miniature while serving in the Pacific. [24] Mailer, armed with yellow notepad, discreetly and systematically surveyed his fellow soldiers about their sexual behaviour, although he was probably wise to restrict the enquiry to their heterosexual relations.The Naked and the Dead, then, was timely in its realistic portrayal of sexual material. Betty Grable’s iconic image (an estimated five million copies of her famous over the shoulder photo were distributed to servicemen during the war [25]) alluded to a more playful, innocent sexuality. Famously, she claimed to be ‘strictly an enlisted man’s girl’, [26] a statement playing to the notion of the rude good humour of the common soldier, in distinction to the aloof sterility of the officer class. [27]

Is it possible, then, to read Mailer’s Betty Grable map as a class-political celebration of proletarian sexuality? Finally, The Naked and the Dead negates this thesis, since the mass-produced, mass culture image is manipulated and controlled by the very administrative officer class which the image ostensibly mocks. Although The Naked and the Dead seems to retain a residual commitment to Popular Front rhetoric, it marks a decisive break from the populism of a Steinbeck and the other Depression-era social realists. Adorno and Horkheimer coined the term ‘culture industry’ in order to divest the term mass culture of its potential folk or populist meanings. The argument goes that mass culture is totalitarian precisely in this capacity to ‘enlist’ citizens to a particular set of practices of consumption. In an ‘Impolite Interview’ with the Realist magazine’s Paul Krassner in 1962, Mailer again found an appropriate metaphor for mass culture in military life. The strain between his populism and cultural pessimism is again, clearly evident:

And you’re not drafted – your eye is not drafted when you turn on that TV set? To assume that people are getting what they want through the mass media also assumes that the men and women who direct the mass media know something about the people. But they don’t know anything about the people. That’s why I gave you the example of the Army. The Private exists in a world which is hermetically alienated from the larger aims of the Generals who are planning the higher strategy of the war. [28]

Mailer’s appraisal of mass culture would gain considerably in sophistication and he would break decisively from the Partisan Review’s orthodox line. Nevertheless, this assessment remained negative, and we see in his first novel the outline of a broad engagement with cultural arguments. The Naked and the Dead rhetorically charts a shift from fascist rule to the hegemony of the cultural fetish. Its conclusion points tentatively but resolutely to what Adorno and Horkheimer call the ‘liquidation of tragedy’ [29], and to a demonstrably emergent postmodern absolutism where energies, political and sexual, are appropriated, negated, and harnessed.What is not clear is the extent to which Mailer’s later revisions of stance provide an adequate model of resistance to this gloomy picture.

University of Edinburgh


[1] Diana Trilling, ‘The Moral Radicalism of Norman Mailer’ (1962). Reprinted in Robert F. Lucid, Norman Mailer: The Man and His Work (Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown, 1971), 115.

[2] Nigel Leigh, Radical Fictions and the Novels of Norman Mailer (London: MacMillan, 1990), 5-6.

[3] Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead (London: Allan Wingate, 1952), 136. Citations are hereafter bracketed in the text.

[4] Michael K. Glenday, Norman Mailer (London: MacMillan, 1995), 47.

[5] Donald Pizer, Twentieth-Century Literary Naturalism: An Interpretation (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982), 107.

[6] Glenday, 54.

[7] Joseph Wenke, Mailer’s America (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1987), 9-10.

[8] Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess: Selected Writings 1927-1939 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), 150.

[9] Bataille, 150.

[10] Leigh, 22.

[11] Wenke, 33.

[12] Glenday, 55.

[13] Tabbi, Joseph, Postmodern Sublime: Technology and American Writing from Mailer to Cyberpunk (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1995), 30.

[14] Leigh, 22, 29.

[15] Glenday, 50.

[16] Norman Mailer, Cannibals and Christians (Panther, 1979), 71.

[17] Rita Barnard, The Great Depression and the Culture of Abundance: Kenneth Fearing, Nathanael West, and Mass Culture in the 1930s (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). See also Jonathan Veitch, American Superrealism: Nathanael West and the Politics of Representation in the 1930s (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997), and Thomas Strychachz, Modernism, Mass Culture, and Professionalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

[18] Andrew Ross, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (New York, London: Routledge, 1989), 52.

[19] Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation and Other Essays (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1967), 275-292.

[20] David McCarthy, Pop Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 32.

[21] Advertisements for Myself (London: Panther, 1968), 350-351.

[22] See Jameson’s ‘’End of Art’ or End of History’?’ (1994) in The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern 1983-1998 (London: Verson, 1998), 73-92. Andreas Huyssens discusses the association of mass culture with the feminine in chapters 3 and 4 of After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture and Postmodernism (London: MacMillan, 1988).

[23] The phrase is Philip Wylie’s, who coined the term in the September 1958 issue of Playboy. Mailer sat as panellist on a Playboy colloquium published in the June 1962 issue, where he discussed the ‘the womanization of America’. Extracts from Mailer’s replies to the colloquium are published in the essay collection Cannibals and Christians. Josh Cohen makes a similar point about Mailer’s association of mass culture with the feminine in chapter two of his Spectacular Allegories: Postmodern American Writing and the Politics of Seeing (London: Pluto Press, 1998).

[24] Peter Manso, Mailer: His Life and Times (Penguin, 1986), 74-75.

[25] Doug Warren, Betty Grable: The Reluctant Movie Queen (Robson, 1982), 79.

[26] Internet Movie Database biography.,%20Betty.

[27] It’s worth observing that Mailer’s novel prosecutes this sexual-class rhetoric through the implicit homosexuality he ascribes to Cummings. This is of course an old trope of class politics, dating since at least the French Revolution. In a piece entitled ‘The Homosexual Villain’ written for the gay magazine ‘One’ (reprinted in Advertisements for Myself) in 1955, Mailer partially repented the association between fascism and homosexuality (although it nevertheless seems to have remained in his writing).

[28] Norman Mailer, The Presidential Papers (Penguin, 1964), 141-142.

[29] Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment (London: Verso, 1997), 154.