Find Post Investigations On:
Facebook Scribd Twitter
Friendfeed RSS Google Reader
» About This Blog | Meet the Investigative Team | Subscribe
Ongoing Investigation

Top Secret America

The Post explores the top secret world the government created in response to the attacks of Sept. 11.

Ongoing Investigation

The Hidden Life of Guns

How guns move through American society, from store counter to crime scene.

Have a Tip?

Talk to Us

If you have solid tips, news or documents on potential ethical violations or abuses of power, we want to know. Send us your suggestions.
• E-mail Us


Post Investigations
In-depth investigative news
and multimedia from The Washington Post.
• Special Reports
• The Blog

Reporters' Notebook
An insider's guide to investigative news: reporters offer insights on their stories.

The Daily Read
A daily look at investigative news of note across the Web.

Top Picks
A weekly review of the best
in-depth and investigative reports from across the nation.

Hot Documents
Court filings, letters, audits and other documents of interest.

D.C. Region
Post coverage of investigative news in Maryland, Virginia and the District.

Washington Watchdogs
A periodic look into official government investigations.

Help! What Is RSS?
Find out how to follow Post Investigations in your favorite RSS reader.

Hot Comments

Unfortunately I believe that we are limited in what we can focus on. I think that if we proceed with the partisan sideshow of prosecuting Bush admin. officials, healthcare will get lost in the brouhaha.
— Posted by denamom, Obama's Quandary...

Recent Posts
Bob Woodward

The Washington Post's permanent investigative unit was set up in 1982 under Bob Woodward.

See what you missed, find what you're looking for.
Blog Archive »
Investigations Archive »

Have a Tip?
Send us information on ethics violations or abuses of power.
E-Mail Us »

Notable investigative projects from other news outlets.
On the Web »
Top Picks »

FBI Found Mailer's Literary Style 'Obscene and Bitter'

POSTED: 01:44 PM ET, 11/18/2008 by The Editors

Washington Post investigative reporter Joe Stephens, the first person to obtain the FBI's confidential files on Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer, offers a periodic peek inside the documents. Next week: more about Marilyn Monroe.

By Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writer

Lots of book reviewers shoot from the hip. But Norman Mailer had to face literary critics who were actually packing heat.

The Washington Post recently revealed that, after Mailer made fun of first lady Jackie Kennedy in an 1962 magazine article, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover launched a wide-ranging investigation into the bad-boy author. The bureau's scrutiny of Mailer rolled on for 15 years, outliving Hoover himself.

Agents didn't find much incriminating. And most of what they did find was already in the public domain, often in Mailer's own books and articles.

In January 1969, Hoover personally ordered up a review of Mailer's then-new book, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, about the previous year's political conventions. The result was a classic collision of the literary mind with the linear thinking of Hoover's finest.

The New York Times, in its review, compared Mailer's prose to that of Charles Dickens and gushed that "his vignettes have imperial authority." The Chicago Tribune declared Mailer's prose "masterful" and purred that, "to understand 1968, you must read Mailer." The New York Review of Books reported that Mailer's gem "often reads like a good, old-fashioned novel in which suspense, character, plot revelations, and pungently describable action abound."

And the G-man assigned to book-review duty?

"Mailer vacillates greatly in his thinking, making this book difficult to read and impossible at times to comprehend," the agent pounded out in stark typewriter fonts. Mailer's writing style, the agent noted, was "obscene and bitter."

When done with his review, the agent filed away the tome in the obvious place at FBI headquarters: the Communist Infiltrated and New Left Groups Unit in the Internal Security Section of the Bureau's Domestic Intelligence Division.

Want to decide for yourself how the Bureau does at literary analysis? Have a look:

G-man literary review

Explore other Mailer documents: 'Let me have memo' New Left Matter

By The Editors |  November 18, 2008; 1:44 PM ET Post Investigations , The Mailer Files
Previous: Appointees Burrow In, Iraqi Watchdogs Removed, Venezuela's Murder Rate Soars | Next: Case of Alaska's Missing Votes Solved


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining


© 2010 The Washington Post Company