Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Executioner's Song - Norman Mailer

Mailer's magnum opus (one of them, anyway) about Mark Gary Gilmore's life in detention, two murders in Provo, Utah, and choice to die at the hands of the United States government rather than extend his life in prison through indefinite appeal. Mailer's work is exhaustive to say the least. Years of interviews and research led him to write a 1,000-plus page 'true novel' which may provide the closest approximation of a person's complicated personality in a work of reportage. It is only one account, but the reader does feel that he or she knows the man that was Gary Gilmore. What is less certain, and left as a pressing question by Mailer, is how do we measure the effect of one person's life on those surrounding them. Through his acts of violence Gilmore enabled his reach to expand ever outwards, drawing an almost global network of people into his story. Mailer's gift for storytelling is, among his other strengths, that he allows Gilmore and those surrounding him to be complete, fallible, bewildering humans. Mailer's lack of moralizing throughout a distinctly morally-tinged story may itself be a type of moralizing on the violence of individuals and of the state. For drawing what appears to be a complete world, Mailer's work is a triumph.