Marya: A Life - Back in Print
A Bloodsmoor Romance: back in print
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Text and Criticism

Joyce Carol Oates on Norman Mailer

Out of the Machine (1971)

There is a famous remark of Freud's that ends with the question, "What does a woman want?" A good question. And a woman is inclined to ask, with the same exasperation, "What does a man want?" Indeed, a woman must ask, "What does a woman want?" The question is a good one, but it is fraudulent. It suggests that there is a single answer—a single "want"—for a multitude of human personalities that happen to be female. Many women are angry today because they are only women; that is, they possess the bodies of women, the mechanisms for reproducing the species, and they are therefore defined simply as "women." But there is no reality to the class of "women," just as there is no emotional reality to the "species." There are only individuals. The individual may be compartmentalized into any number of compartments, the absurd boxes of the poll-taker (the "Irish Catholic," the "suburbanite, affluent," the "35-year-old divorcée," etc.), but he exists in none of these compartments, and his personality will reject them. Joyce Carol Oates with Norman Mailer and Norris MailerThe only reality is personality. Not sex. Not sexual identity. No categories can contain or define us, and that is why we draw back from the female chauvinists who claim a biological sisterhood with us, just as we draw back from the male chauvinists who have attempted to define us in the past.

Full Text of Out of the Machineright-arrows

The Teleology of the Unconscious: The Art of Norman Mailer (1973)

I would like to examine Mailer's faith in the "teleological unconscious" as a revolt against what he sees to be the cancerous magic of the totalitarian mass-democracy and as an expression of his own intellectual stasis, which is symptomatic of a far-reaching malaise of the spirit: as passionate now as when Donne feared the "New Science," but no longer as necessary. Mailer's most important work is Why Are We in Vietnam?—an outrageous little masterpiece—and his most poetic, prophetic work is Of a Fire on the Moon, so a concentration on these books should help to illuminate Mailer's enormous autobiographical venture, a "self" in search of an author.

Full Text of The Teleology of the Unconsciousright-arrows