"The White Negro" attributed various anarchic characteristics to blacks. It was meant as praise. I am no fan of Mailer but I think he had a point
A publisher is said to have cancelled plans to release a collection of political essays by the American writer Norman Mailer after complaints from a junior member of staff about the title of his 1957 work The White Negro.
Penguin Random House is understood to have informed the Mailer family that it no longer had plans to publish the collection to celebrate the centenary of his birth next year.
Mailer was one of the defining voices of American 20th-century literature but courted controversy throughout his career and stabbed one of his six wives in the leg with a penknife during a drunken row.
Best-selling author Michael Wolff said Mailer’s oldest son had confirmed that Penguin Random House had told him of the cancelled plans.
Wolff wrote in The Ankler newsletter: “With slow-mo hammer-dropping predictability, Norman Mailer’s long-time publisher has recently informed the Mailer family that it has cancelled plans to publish a collection of his political writings to mark the centennial of his birth in 2023 . . .
The back-door apologies at Random House include as the proximate cause – you hardly have to look hard in Mailer’s work to find offences against contemporary doctrine and respectability – a junior staffer’s objection to the title of Mailer’s 1957 essay, The White Negro.”
The infamous 9000-word essay explored Mailer’s philosophy on “hipsterism” and declared the murder of a white shop owner by two black teenagers was an example of “daring the unknown”.
James Baldwin, the influential black writer, criticised the work and accused Mailer of employing racial stereotypes.
Mailer died aged 84 in 2007.