Books: Doom as Theater

THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG

by Norman Mailer

Little, Brown; 1056 pages; $16.95

Norman Mailer drives around in such a charismatic prose that even when he merely waves at something, it acquires a shine, a lingering phosphorescence. It is the Heisenberg principle of his own egomania.

Mailer has tested this magic on the Viet Nam War, American presidential politics, the women's movement, the moon program. He tries it now upon another American public event that possessed, even before he wrote about it, a certain Mailerian quality: the execution, early in 1977, of Gary Gilmore, 36, a Utah murderer who refused to appeal his conviction and...

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