Journalist Michael Wolff alleges Random House canceled the publication of a planned collection of essays by Norman Mailer after an objection from a “junior staffer” at the publishing house.
Wolff, citing the author’s eldest son, Michael Mailer, made the claim in a… part for the anklea Substack newsletter founded by columnist Richard Rushfield.
The backdoor apologies at Random House include as the immediate cause—you hardly have to search hard in Mailer’s work to find insults to contemporary doctrine and respectability—a junior staffer’s objection to the title of Mailer’s 1957 essay “The White Negro,” a precursor to psychosexual drug and model for much of the psychosexual drug literature that became popular in the 1960s,” Wolff writes.
The famous abrasive Mailer, best known for: The Song of the Executioner, died in 2007 and has long been one of America’s most controversial authors. In 1960, he stabbed his then-wife, nearly killed her, and received a suspended sentence for the assault. He also ran a quixotic campaign for mayor of New York City in 1969, taking just 5 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.
The Random House collection was intended to mark the centenary of Mailer’s birth in 1923. The publisher is home to some of Mailer’s best-known books, including The armies of the night† The fightand whore’s ghost†
Wolff says a Random House source alleges objections from author Roxane Gay led to the publisher’s alleged decision to end the project, but noted that Gay’s “name may, however, have been used as a mere generic type of objector (as in , she or anyone else cause-oriented who might object).”
On Twitter, Gay rejected the suggestion that she was responsible for the project’s cancellation, to write“It’s so stupid. And [some] cowardly for [Penguin Random House] had the nerve to try and blame me for this, said Wolff. I’ve never even read Mailer’s work.”
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and a regular contributor to NPR.