Years ago, during one of my first forays into psychotherapy, I was starting with a new analyst. As it was one of our first meetings, I was giving a lot of background on myself, particularly with regard to my parents. The therapist was particularly interested in the fact that as a child I associated a certain kind of intellectual life with my parents, and by then I had decided to go to graduate school. She asked me to describe my upbringing in that regard, and I said that there were always people around the house talking about Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer. Practically in the middle of my sentence, the therapist interrupted me. “So,” she asked, “your parents are the kind of people who read Norman Mailer?”
I really had no sense of what "kind" of people Mailer readers would be, but it was clear that it was not a type of which my new therapist approved. Kevin Schultz's Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship that Shaped the Sixties goes a long way towarsd explaining why people have these strong opinions about Norman Mailer. At the same time, it shows that there was much more to him than the qualities that might have formed these negative impressions. Pairing the radical Mailer with the conservative William F. Buckley, Jr., Schultz uses the two men to advance an interesting interpretation of the century's most contentious decade.
I reviewed the book for the Society for U.S. Intellectual History. My review is posted here.