Review: The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer

the executioner's songThe Executioner’s Song
written by Norman Mailer
published by Little, Brown

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: It sounded like a compelling story that was highly rated on  I frequently seek classic literature with heavy content and controversies. (This in no way interferes with my enjoyment of comedy, fluff lit, or good ol’ fashioned trash lit).

Did I enjoy this book:
That word “enjoy” again; I keep getting tripped up here. I was haunted, stunned, and perplexed by this book.

When two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Normal Mailer composes a story, it is truly a work of art. Unrestricted by any particular style or expectation, Mailer unfolds the painful, true story of convicted murderer, Gary Gilmore. He creates a multi-dimensional central character who demonstrates hope, aspirations, and love while simultaneously revealing himself to be violent, depraved, and ultimately evil.

 In the book, Gilmore leaves prison after 13 years of incarceration. Early in the novel, he says, “I want a home . . .  I want a family. I want to live like other people live.” But this proves too much for Gilmore as he is unable to resist his compulsion to take what he wants without regards for others. Even his profound love for Nicole Baker is perverted by his proposed suicide pact. But he does love. And people in his life love him.

The entire 1000+ page novel is convoluted, complicated, and confounding.  As I believe the author intended it to be.  The story is told through dialogue, letters, interviews, and court transcripts. No detail is ignored, no emotion unexplored.


Would I recommend it: Mailer claims this story was given to him in its entirety by God. It’s not hard to believe this claim to be true. So I would recommend it -but  to the serious reader. (Not sure how to say this without sounding snobbish.)

Will I read it again: I will not.


About the book – from Goodreads: In what is arguably his greatest book, America’s most heroically ambitious writer follows the short, blighted career of Gary Gilmore, an intractably violent product of America’s prisons who became notorious for two reasons: first, for robbing two men in 1976, then killing them in cold blood; and, second, after being tried and convicted, for insisting on dying for his crime. To do so, he had to fight a system that seemed paradoxically intent on keeping him alive long after it had sentenced him to death. Norman Mailer tells Gilmore’s story–and those of the men and women caught up in his procession toward the firing squad–with implacable authority, steely compassion, and a restraint that evokes the parched landscapes and stern theology of Gilmore’s Utah. The Executioner’s Song is a trip down the wrong side of the tracks to the deepest sources of American loneliness and violence. It is a towering achievement–impossible to put down, impossible to forget.