Norman Mailer, WWII, and books about the president made news the week of May 22, 1998


The fete for Norman Mailer’s The Time of Our Time really packed a punch. Guest Muhammad Ali, rating Mailer ”a good writer,” signed his own name to copies of the panoramic anthology for fans Katie Roiphe and Colin Harrison. Meanwhile, Kurt Vonnegut’s thoughts turned to mortality as he surveyed the Rainbow Room-ful of literary heavyweights, musing ”We all would like to have died as young as F. Scott Fitzgerald, but we didn’t manage it.” Mailer wondered how the 1,286-page tome would sell: ”It’s a large book, it’s a heavy book, and people don’t like heavy books.”


We’re into the army now. The War Journal: The True Story of One Soldier’s Daring Escape From the Bataan Death March Across 3,200 Miles of Enemy Held Water to Australia, the Longest Escape in U.S. Military History (and maybe the longest subtitle) is on the auction block. Author Damon Gause died in an accident during the war and ”his manuscript was shipped home and just stayed there for the last 55 years,” says the family’s agent, Mary Tahan. In other World War II news, Rob Weisbach’s imprint at Morrow just paid a rumored half million for a book by 84-year-old Holocaust survivor Edith Hahn, whose story of eluding the Nazis by marrying one made waves last December when she auctioned her wartime archive at Sotheby’s.


There’s a loose-zippered president in Charles McCarry’s new novel, Lucky Bastard, and that’s inspired Random House to move up publication from fall to July 4. ”Aspects of the book are pertinent to things that have been going on in the world,” is how Random publicity VP Carol Schneider delicately put it. D.C. commuters will see the book plugged on 350,000 metrocards in June. Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis has just finished her own White House novel, Behold, a Pale Horse, in which a prez is secretly diagnosed with AIDS. It’s due out from Knopf next January.

— Alexandra Jacobs and Matthew Flamm