Books: And Now, the Book

Throughout his intense immersion in the time of his times, Norman Mailer has repeated his conviction that making history is preferable to reading it. In his influential essay "The White Negro" (1957), Mailer turned the emerging social type known as the hipster into a daring pioneer adrift in "the perpetual climax of the present," freed of all moral guides and codes of conduct except the thrumming of his own nervous system. The author specifically disavowed any precedents for this existential frame of mind: "If the ethic reduces to Know Thyself and Be Thyself,...

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