The Atlantic

‘A Work of Art Designed by the Devil’

Dispatched by Life magazine to cover the Apollo 11 mission, Norman Mailer saw the lunar landing not as a triumph for mankind but as evidence of our hubris.
Source: Katie Martin

“Ievent of his lifetime, and yet it had been a dull event. The language which now would sing of this extraordinary vault promised to be as flat as an unstrung harp.” In such terms did Norman Mailer, 50 years ago, frame the first landing of men on the moon. And in such terms did he also frame himself, the shaky, earthbound Homer who had to write about it. Mailer was in a funk. Low-grade depression had unstrung his harp. His marriage was going down the tubes; his just-concluded campaign for mayor of New York City (he came in fourth in a five-man race) had left him with “a huge boredom about himself”; he felt fat. Now magazine had given him a heavyweight assignment: Go to Houston and thenmagazine. And for Mailer? Grim opportunism. Out of tune, bardically bereft, plucking (as it were) flaccid strands of sheep’s gut, he was ripe for anticlimax. But he needed the cash.

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