This excerpt is taken from a program in which Norman Mailer talked with authors Gunter Grass and Andrew O'Hagan on the topic of "The 20th Century on Trial," and was recorded in collaboration with the New York Public Library.
Norman Mailer was born in the 1920s to a Jewish family in Long Branch, New Jersey. He was brought up in Brooklyn, New York, graduated from Boys' High School and when he was only sixteen was admitted to Harvard University in 1939, where he studied aeronautical engineering. At the university, he became interested in writing and published his first story when he was 18. Mailer was drafted into the Army in World War II and served in the South Pacific.
In 1948, just before enrolling in the Sorbonne in Paris, he published a book that made him world-famous: The Naked and the Dead, based on his personal experiences during World War II. It was hailed by many as one of the best American novels to come out of the war years and named one of the "100 best novels in English language" by the Modern Library. In 1968 he received a George Polk Award for his reporting in Harper's Magazine.
Other famous works include: The Presidential Papers (1963), An American Dream (1965), Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967), Armies of the Night (1968, awarded a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award), Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968), Of a Fire on the Moon (1970), The Prisoner of Sex (1971), Marilyn (1973), The Fight (1975), The Executioner's Song (1979, awarded a Pulitzer Prize), Ancient Evenings (1983), Harlot's Ghost (1991), Oswald's Tale (1995), and The Castle in the Forest (2007).