Norman Mailer's Bad Review from the FBI Man-child Norman Mailer's voluminous sexual appetite, among other things, has been posthumously expanded, and the same is true of his squabbles with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A Washington Post Freedom of Information request on Mailer's FBI file was finally granted a year after his death, and in the 165 released pages the FBI ineffectually shadows Mailer throughout his storied career. In the ensuing report, we can only feel sympathy for the sad agent who had to slog through Barbary Shore and The Deer Park:Mailer was a veteran, having served as an Army cook in the Philippines, but in the 60s, that wasn't enough to get you off the FBI's radar screen. The ego-driven writer initially came to the attention of Hoover when he wrote something perfectly innocuous about Jacqueline Kennedy's soft-spokenness. Hoover was extraordinarily sensitive to such things, and demanded agents review all of Mailer's columns and books once he started calling out the FBI in his writing. Norman Mailer's Bad Review from the FBIHaving run for mayor of New York on a ticket with Jimmy Breslin (and suggested New York City should secede from the state) in 1969, the FBI started sending plain-clothed agents to his door, and even calling up his father pretending to be a friend looking for Norman. They even disguised themselves as deliverymen. Most of the file consists of FBI reviews of Mailer's writings, which were in some cases were kinder than the actual reviews:
In 1969, at Hoover's direction, an agent prepared a five-page, single-spaced review of Mailer's book "Miami and the Siege of Chicago," about the 1968 political conventions. The review carefully itemized all six references made to the FBI. "It is written in his usual obscene and bitter style," the agent wrote. "Book contains reference to . . . uncomplimentary statements of the type that might be expected from Mailer regarding the FBI and the Director."
The ever skeptical Mailer knew more about what was going on than he let on, saying in 1964's The Presidential Papers that
At bottom, I mean profoundly at bottom, the FBI has nothing to do with Communism, it has nothing to do with catching criminals, it has nothing to do with the Mafia, the syndicate, it has nothing to do with trust-busting, it has nothing to do with interstate commerce, it has nothing to do with anything but serving as a church for the mediocre. A high church for the true mediocre.
The FBI's 15-Year Campaign To Ferret Out Norman Mailer [WaPo]