IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Norman Mailer's archives get Texas home

$2.5 million paid to store novelist's papers in Austin
/ Source: The Associated Press

Even as researchers begin organizing his legacy, author Norman Mailer continues to weigh in on everything from the Iraq war to capital punishment.

Mailer, 82, spoke Thursday at the University of Texas, which earlier this week announced it had purchased the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist’s archive for $2.5 million.

Mailer, whose works include “The Naked and the Dead,” and “The Executioner’s Song,” recalled being a young writer in the 1950s and said he might have been a blogger if there had been an Internet back then.

“In the ’50s, you couldn’t get anything interesting published,” he said.

Mailer said he chose the university’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center to house his archive because of its world-class reputation and because of his feeling of kinship to Texas, where he was stationed in the in the Army before shipping out to fight in World War II. Later, in the 1960s, he lectured at UT.

The collection includes manuscripts, notebooks, photographs and thousands of other materials, said Michael Lennon, an English professor at Wilkes University who has helped Mailer organize the materials.

Unpublished works include screenplays, short stories and a novel, “No Percentage,” written when Mailer was a student at Harvard University. Also included are two stories — “Adventures of Bob and Paul” and “The Martian Invasion” — written when Mailer was 8 and 11, respectively.

'The health of democracy'There are also files from his accountants and lawyers and old report cards, tax returns and car repair bills.

“What’s going to come back to haunt me?” Mailer joked.

Being in Texas, the state that has carried out the most executions since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Mailer tried to explain his “left-conservative” position on capital punishment.

“It’s a dangerous business to allow truly hideous criminals to live,” he said. But “if I had to choose, I’d say no capital punishment rather than huge capital punishment.”

Mailer’s “Executioner’s Song” was about the life and death of Gary Gilmore, who in 1977 became the first convict executed in the United States in a decade.

Mailer, who said he’s working on a new novel but didn’t disclose what it’s about, said writers have a responsibility to raise public consciousness on issues.

“Novels are very important to the health of democracy,” he said.