Monday, November 12, 2007

The Executioner's Song

I just read that Norman Mailer died on Saturday. I didn't even hear a peep.

I've read a handful of his work, but The Executioner's Song is by far my favorite. It is probably in my top 10 favorite books ever.

It is creative nonfiction before there was a term 'creative nonfiction.' It is the story of Gary Gilmore, who in the 70's randomly went into a gas station and made the attendant lie down on the floor and then shot him in the back of the head. There wasn't really any reason. He just did it.

He was also the first person to fight for his own right to be killed. He was on death row and they wouldn't kill him and he fought for them to kill him.

Mailer writes the story in simple, nice sentences and somehow encaptures the whole thing with this weird pull that makes you not able to stop reading it.

It is 1,056 pages and I read it in I think 3 days.

It is also the loose basis of the film Cremaster 2 by Matthew Barney, which has some awesome images (though most of the really good ones I can't find online).

I'm not one to romanticize dead icons, but you should read this book.


Josh Maday said...

You've been right on with the books you've recommended, so I'm going to give 'er a shot. I've never read anything by Mailer, but I keep seeing around that people like The Executioner's Song. Since you say it's good, I'll read it. I trust you that way.

Hope yer doin well.

jereme said...

It is a sign of the times. I remember not much being said when Thompson died.

We will never hear the end of it if Spears or Lohan overdose and die.

We are all doomed.

Lyndall-O said...

I recall quite a cafuffle around Thompson's death. His ashes were shot out of a canon at a funeral paid for by johnny depp and well attended by a bunch of useless a-listers, like josh hartnett. It's hard to miss that kind of news surely?

Blake - I've almost finished blood meridian! Thanks for unwittingly putting me onto it, it's a brilliant book, probably the most morally corruptive book I've ever's epic in its amorality, like a godless bible. It makes me want to visit that part of the world to understand it better. I feel like I may be missing a lot because I'm geographically ignorant, the characters seem so much a part of the landscape.

so yeah -thanks.


thanks josh.
i agree jereme.

lyndall: i'm really glad to hear you liked it. i like the term 'godless bible'. quite appropo. if you're hungry for more mccarthy after that (i know i was, i think i read all of his books in 2 weeks), you should try SUTTREE. that's my favorite of his by far. completely immersive and unlike anything else ever written. one of those you want to stay in forever and hate when the last page is passed.

sam pink said...

blake, i am going to become a dead icon while i'm alive. please romanticize me (but don't touch me that makes me feel weird and mad). the person above me said 'cafuffle'. when i read that word i felt good.


i will romanticize your nostrils only.

cafuffle made me scrotum tense and ripple. in a good way.

brandon said...


i grinned when i read about your scotum

does that change things

Andrew Ervin said...

Did you ever read the essay Robert Stone wrote about Mailer for the NY Review of Books? Might have been around the time of Mailer's book on Oswald. If I can dig up a copy, I'll pass it along. What an amazing essay, as you'd expect from Stone.


andrew< i'd like to read it

Andrew Ervin said...

The library here at U of I doesn't have access to the full-text archives of the NYRB. If yours does, looky here:

June 22, 1995: The Loser's Loser by Robert Stone (Rev. of Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery by Norman Mailer)

I borrowed the Executioner's Tale from the American Library in Budapest in about 1996, shortly before it closed, and realized that I would never need or want to read another Mailer novel. It's simply amazing, and still not fully appreciated. (I also had that library's copy, a hd 1st ed., of The Crying of Lot 49 checked out when it got shut down. I still have it.)

sam pink said...

crying of lot 49=good
sleeping for 14 hours and forgetting where you are when you wake up=good