Books: Adrenaline and Flapdoodle

PIECES AND PONTIFICATIONS by Norman Mailer

Little, Brown; 422 pages; $20

"He is a person of very great gifts and he needs them to carry him through all those platitudes."

—Saul Bellow on Norman Mailer

When that sentence was pronounced on the Dick Cavett show last winter, fireworks were expected. Mailer had never been known to ignore a taunt; he had devoted whole chapters to demolitions of competing writers. Instead, there was an uncharacteristic silence. Six months later, Mailer has provided an answer. But it, too, is atypical. For if, as the editor of his...

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