Mailer's Archive Opens in Texas

It has been almost two months since Norman Mailer died. "Before that he lived a big, loud life, which he spent asking questions, accumulating bruises and setting all kinds of people’s hair on fire," according to the Observer’s Leon Neyfakh.

Boxes full of papers of that firestarting life, laid down side by side, would run more than the length of a football field from end zone to end zone.

Those handwritten and typed manuscripts, galley proofs, screenplays, correspondence, research materials and notes, legal, business and financial records, photographs, audio and video tapes, books, magazines, clippings, scrapbooks, electronic records, drawings and awards will be open to the public at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin today.

The Ransom Center announced in 2005 the acquisition of Mailer’s archive, which included materials associated with every one of his literary projects, whether completed or not, according to press materials.

About 40,000 of Mailer’s letters, including wartime letters to his family, personal and business correspondence, and the originals of letters sent to him from American writers, notables and three generations of readers, are in the archive. Many of the correspondence files contain incoming letters with carbons of Mailer’s outgoing responses.

The more than 3,500 correspondents include Allen Ginsberg, Lillian Hellman, Aldous Huxley, Joan Didion, Truman Capote, Stella Adler, Robert Lowell, LeRoi Jones, Muhammad Ali, John Lennon, James Jones, Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates and George Plimpton, among many other important American figures.

"Correspondence within an archive often reveals unexpected insights that aren’t obvious in manuscripts or elsewhere," said Mielke. "From the 1940s to the 1980s, Mailer’s letters with Japanese literary translator Eiichi Yamanishi, for example, record a fascinating discussion between author and translator about the composition and meaning of Mailer’s works."

The archive contains extensive records of Mailer’s literary production, the bulk of which consist of drafts of Mailer’s books, plays, screenplays, poems, speeches and journal contributions, both published and unpublished.

All of the manuscripts of Mailer’s more than 40 books, with the exception of one of the multiple drafts of "The Naked and the Dead," can be found in the archive. For each of Mailer’s books, there is a complete range of materials, from handwritten manuscripts to typescripts, galleys and page proofs. For some books, manuscripts are accompanied by research materials and correspondence.

In addition to literary works, the archive contains materials related to Mailer’s 1969 New York City mayoral primary campaign, his tenure as president of the American chapter of P.E.N. and his family and personal life.

Mailer's Archive Opens in Texas