Monday, May 6, 2024

Great American Novel



Ron Rosenbaum's celebration of the works of Norman Mailer (“Mailer Was the Rage,” Feb. 10) perhaps misses the context that cries out for the Great American Novel. The essence of the G.A.N. is the range of its "put-on." It attempts to put on and wear not only its own times, but the full history of printed American literature, especially its recognized classics.

Mr. Mailer's problem involves the question of whether a book can compete with the other put-ons, or media, that engage the American multi-consumer. Perhaps a solution is to write a novel that puts on all the media. This was accomplished by Marshall McLuhan with his published work, especially “Understanding Media,” which he considered a new form of novel and a new kind of science fiction.

Mr. McLuhan, starting from the premise that the daily newspaper was the great American novel, put on the competition, and did what Mr. Mailer couldn't—changed the world and the English language—all through his writing.

In Stephanie McLuhan's 1984 documentary about her father, Mailer says that McLuhan was the only person who could think faster than him. So the big secret of the past 40 years is that Marshall McLuhan wrote the Great American Novel, and the ink isn't dry yet.

The Bronx

“Bob Neveritt” is an occasional pseudonym for “Bob Dobbs.”

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