Norman Mailer's Book of the Dead: a companion to Ancient Evenings
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This dissertation is a companion to Norman Mailer’s Egyptian novel, Ancient Evenings (1983). Presented in seven parts, it combines a monograph and a selection from the novel outfitted with footnotes, plates, and captions. Part I provides an overview of the dissertation, a definition of terms, and a statement of my editorial principles. Part II is a biographical description of the author in relation to Ancient Evenings and its significance in the arc of his oeuvre. Also explored are Mailer’s unrealized plans to produce two related novels that would have formed a triad that embodied his existential ideology. Part III consists of criticism by me that will later take the form of a general introduction, footnotes, and endnotes for an annotated edition of Ancient Evenings. Part IV is a synthesis of published critical reactions to the novel placed in conversation with Mailer’s own commentary on his creative process and intentions. Ancient Evenings is notoriously difficult to navigate, and to provide a beacon for readers, Part V includes a character list and a synopsis of each of the novel’s seven “books.” Part VI is the second section of the novel, “The Book of the Gods,” presented as an annotated edition. The Coda includes a transcription of a previously unpublished prose piecethat represents the development of a novel, The Boat of Ra, that would have followed Ancient Evenings had Mailer completed his triad. For the use of future scholars, the bibliography documents Mailer’s confirmed research materials. Norman Mailer’s Book of the Dead speaks to the development of a major work by one of the most influential authors and public intellectuals of the second half of the twentieth century.