AT THE AGE OF 72, NORMAN MAILER STILL ROCKS BACK and forth on the balls of his feet when he talks. He still leaves the impression of a compact nuclear device as drawn by Herblock--shaking slightly on its launch pad, Yoda-shaped and oracular, although somewhat mellowed by the years. He is capable now of an occasional shrug that says, "Who knows?"

Mailer admirably settled in years ago for the literary long haul. Whatever momentary noise he made as the Tasmanian devil of American letters (when he would go dervishing through the culture, talking tough, chewing the furniture), his 27 books have...

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