Norman Mailer: Salvation and the Apocalyptic Orgasm

  • Charles I. Glicksberg


Ineffectual in their attempt to formulate an aesthetic based on states of sexual hyperaesthesia, the gifted and productive members of the beat generation launched a literary revolt that seems mildly “leftist” when compared to the ultra-revolutionary mood of the hipsters, who are all-out nihilists.1 For Hip is the philosophy of the apocalyptic orgasm, and Norman Mailer is its self-appointed prophet. As an underground man, defiant of the laws of society, the hipster is on his own; he responds only to the impulse of the moment. He might equally well be called the outsider, the American Existentialist who has gone the limit. He identifies himself with the Negro, the marginal man, who bears in his soul the mark of oppression. Hip, like beat, derives from the Bohemian world of jazz; it draws ideological sustenance from such a mixed grab bag of influences as D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, and Wilhelm Reich, but its uniquely distinguishing trait is the militancy of its adherence to the mystique of the apocalyptic orgasm. As a quasi-Existentialist, the hipster is a mystical psychopath who does not reason but feel. Norman Mailer estimates that there are probably not more than one hundred thousand men and women—a surprisingly high percentage—who regard themselves as hipsters, psychopaths who can view their abnormality without guilt and with a kind of aesthetic detachment.


Moral Courage Sexual Freedom Sexual Revolution Sexual Impulse Page Proof 
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  1. 1.
    Norman Mailer, “The White Negro,” in Gene Feldman and Max Gartenberg (eds.), The Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men. New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1958, p. 373.Google Scholar
  2. “An Impolite Interview with Norman Mailer,”The Realist, December, 1962, No. 50, p. 21.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Norman Mailer, An American Dream. New York: The Dial Press, 1965, p. 8.Google Scholar
  4. Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself, p. 432.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Charles I. Glicksberg, “Norman Mailer: The Angry Young Novelist in America,” Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature Spring–Summer, 1960, I, pp. 28–34.Google Scholar
  6. Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself, p. 278. Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Robert Elliot Fitch, The Decline and Fall of Sex. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1957. p. 14.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles I. Glicksberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Brooklyn CollegeCity UniversityUSA

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