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No, the relentlessly ‘macho’ Norman Mailer hasn’t been canceled — should he be?

This month, Michael Wolff claimed that Norman Mailer has been “canceled” because a project to collect his political writings was discontinued by a publisher.

Wolff charged that an essay by Mailer, “The White Negro,” (1957) a dated opus inspired by the Austrian Jewish psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, was deemed offensive for today’s readers. Although Wolff’s claims were discounted and the upcoming anthology found a home with another publisher, the question remains whether the author born Nachem Malech Mailer, who wrote “Miami and the Siege of Chicago,” “The Armies of the Night,” and “Of a Fire on the Moon,” is now outmoded.

The Associated Press cited statistics that last year, combined sales for Mailer’s most famous books, including “The Naked and the Dead,” “The Executioner’s Song” and “The Fight,” amounted to under 4,000 copies.

This would imply that Mailer is rarely assigned in classrooms, and indeed he was dropped by the “Norton Anthology of Literature” in recent editions.

Yet a coterie of fans insist that Mailer was a Jewish “prophet” or “rabbi” offering precious counsel.

The 1960 event during which Mailer stabbed his wife Adele twice, almost fatally, may put off some potential devotees. Yet even now, a surprising number of Jewish admirers are apparently willing to overlook it.

Mailer certainly offers Jewish readers vehemently expressed, convoluted views about modern Jewish history. In a journal entry dated January 1955, Mailer noted: “Jews hated Hitler violently because they knew that they were guilty too — of Jewish self-hatred. How else account for the wave of Zionism after the war?”

So less than a decade after the State of Israel was founded, Mailer disapproved of it as a symptom of “Jewish self-hatred.”

He retained this viewpoint throughout his career and never visited Israel, a difficult achievement for an American Jewish writer of his notoriety. Perhaps his much-vaunted machismo, appropriate for TV’s “Dick Cavett Show,” would have withered among Sabras, whose concepts of machismo and feminism differ from those seen in 1960s Greenwich Village literary parties.

In 1962 Mailer told a Canadian interviewer that Israel’s trial of Adolf Eichmann was a “Jewish disaster…A public assertion of the Jews, the trial showed what happens when a suppressed people come to power.”

In a 2007 “Nextbook” podcast, Mailer expanded on his theories with odd bravado: “If the Jews brought anything to human nature, it’s that they developed the mind more than other people did…And [now] to deaden [that mind] and stultify it, to flood it with cheap religious patriotism, I consider that part of the disaster that Hitler visited upon us.”

So in Mailer’s eyes, Hitler ruined the Jewish mind, whatever that is and Israel was born. Similar theorizing was heard from Mailer earlier that year when he spoke to The Guardian:

“The real damage Hitler did to the Jews, after killing 6 million, was to wreck the minds of the survivors. Before Hitler, the Jewish mind was more inquiring and much more elegant.”

In the same “Nextbook” podcast, he commented about the rise of global antisemitism: “I think [Jews are] partly responsible for it, for this cowardly, panicky reaction all the time… the moment something is bad for the Jews, we panic and I find that’s awful.”

Blaming Jews was an avocation of Mailer’s. His 1997 novel “The Gospel According to the Son” attributes the crucifixion of Jesus to Jews as well as Romans. This approach was invalidated by the Second Vatican Council of 1965 and later Catholic theologians.

To those who protested that he was continuing the myth of Jews as Christ-killers which led to centuries of antisemitic persecution, Mailer retorted that he was merely asserting that “establishments are always killing their own.”

Despite Mailer’s disdain for Israel, he delved energetically into Jewish lore, relishing Heinrich Graetz’s six volume history of the Jews, criticized by historian Salo Baron as reflecting a “lachrymose conception of Jewish history.” Mailer’s preferences in Yiddishkeit reflected his own prejudices, as when he extended sexism to Hebrew itself, calling it a “masculine” language.

Sometimes his Jewish predilections were baffling. The Judaic Studies professor Ezra Cappell recalled in 2007 that Mailer would “loudly declaim his favorite Talmudic section, which discusses when prayers can continue once an ox has defecated near a synagogue.”

This excerpt from the “Shulchan Aruch HaRav,” a record of halakha by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, specifies: “One need not distance himself from animal feces; as long as the odor doesn’t reach the person, he may pray nearby.” Why the ultra-urbanite Mailer found this rural guideline intriguing remains mystifying.

Perhaps he was amused by it. Mailer, utterly self-serious, had impish concepts of drollery, often ascribing to Judaism his own personal quirks.

His daughter Kate Mailer noted in 2015 that when asked why Mailer continually badmouthed his children, he replied that it was “to dispel the evil eye,” adding: “I am protecting you. I am Jewish. This is ancient Jewish mysticism, Kate.”

Similarly, his biographer J. Michael Lennon observed in 2013 that Mailer “knew that you pay for everything you get, which he always attributed to his Jewish roots. There’s no free lunch and there’s no free love.” This materialist, transactional philosophy likely owed less to Jewish tradition than lessons learned from his mother Fanny Schneider, an astute businesswoman.

An eternal mama’s boy, Mailer admitted to interviewer Lawrence Grobel in 2001 that were he to “shoot up some housing development with a Tommy gun and slaughter 20 people,” his mother would have absolved him of blame. This “unquestioning” maternal loyalty led to problematic “mother-fed egos,” he realized: “Half the Jewish men on earth suffer and are benefited by that kind of ego that they get from their mothers.”

By no means predominantly Jewish, this pathology suggests that Mailer’s all-forgiving acolytes today might be fulfilling a posthumous surrogate maternal role. They will surely pardon Mailer’s attitude, announced in a letter from 1960 to Diana Trilling, that Judaism is an impediment for U.S. novelists.

Mailer informed Trilling that Jews “not only couldn’t but…shouldn’t” come to terms with Jewishness, because “then the only answer was to go to Israel or join the local Sisterhood, that the Jew was most interesting precisely when he didn’t try to become a Jew but instead became a mirror of what he admired most in his civilization, that the art of the Jew was to capture and personify the manner of his time more exquisitely than those who were born to it.”

Feeling out of place was also alluded to in a 1982 Harvard Magazine interview, recalling that he arrived as a freshman at Harvard like a “young Jewish rube from Brooklyn.”

This inferiority complex might be validated by posterity if Mailer’s works, even those still worthy of attention, were dismissed alongside the obsolete ones. But then, overlooked Jewish writers who slated Mailer’s polemics, like the novelist Jean Malaquais (born Wladimir Malacki) and the sociologist Ned Polsky, might prove of more permanent value than some of Mailer’s work.

As the literary historian Edward Mendelson once stated, Mailer “got himself tangled up in the idea that his own personal mythology and vision mattered more than what happened to other people.” Some rabbi. Some prophet.

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