News Release — April 25, 2005
Ransom Center Acquires Norman Mailer Archive
The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin has acquired the papers of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer for $2.5 million.
The archive contains materials associated with every one of Mailer's literary projects, whether completed or not, from the mid-1930s to the present, as well as a substantial number of first editions and foreign editions of Mailer's books, books used for research and some books given to Mailer by other authors.
"From the Vietnam War to capital punishment, from first amendment rights to the role of the writer in the modern world," said Thomas F. Staley, director of the Ransom Center, "Mailer engaged the important intellectual and social issues of his time. This is one of the most comprehensive literary archives the Center has ever acquired."
The archive includes all manuscripts of Mailer's more than 40 books, with the exception of one of the multiple drafts of "The Naked and the Dead" (1948). For each of Mailer's books, there is a complete range of materials, from hand-written manuscripts to typescripts, galleys and page proofs. For some books, manuscripts are accompanied by research materials and correspondence.
Ten thousand of Mailer's letters, including his wartime letters to his family, personal and business correspondence, and the originals of letters sent to him from American writers, notables and three generations of readers are in the archive. Correspondents include Allen Ginsberg, Lillian Hellman, Aldous Huxley, Truman Capote, Stella Adler, LeRoi Jones, John Lennon and Larry McMurtry, among many other important American literary figures.
The archive also holds a number of Mailer's unpublished short stories, journals, essays, notes, screenplays and the manuscript of his first, unpublished novel "No Percentage," written in the early 1940s.
Additional materials range from awards to personal papers and photographs, from audio and video recordings of interviews and readings to works by others about Mailer. Mailer's tax records and other business papers, including literary contracts, are also included.
When asked about his connection to Texas and why he placed his archive at the Harry Ransom Center, Mailer said:
"A man who went to a famous prep school in the early '20s said afterward, 'It was the worst experience of my life and the most valuable.'
"I can say the same about my time in the U.S. Army. In 1944, I came out of Fort Bragg an artillery replacement and was sent to the 112th Regimental Combat Team, originally from San Antonio but now in the Philippines. There I was converted into an infantry rifleman. So I got to know a fair amount about Texas over the next year. And Texans. Most of them were dirt-poor and damn tough. (For years afterward in New York, when trouble was brewing on the street, I would do my best to talk in a Texas accent.)
"To this, I can add a splendid few days I spent in Austin as a lecturer back in the very early '60s, and I do remember the university as one of the most exciting and open campuses I ever visited.
"Those are ties, but, of course, one acquires many others over 82 years. I'd say the major part of my decision (and pleasure) to have this archive go to the Ransom Center is that you have one of the best, if not, indeed, the greatest collection of literary archives to be found in America. What the hell. Since it's going to Texas, let's say one of the best in the world."
Mailer has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize twice, for "The Armies of the Night" (1968) and "The Executioner's Song" (1979), an account of the life and death of Utah murderer Gary Gilmore. Mailer has also received the National Book Award and a Polk Award, among other distinctions.
The Mailer collection is scheduled to arrive in Austin in July. Ransom Center staff will perform a routine conservation inspection on its arrival and prepare an initial list of collection materials. With a projected size of about 900 document boxes, organization, housing, and description of the papers in a detailed finding aid is expected to take several years. Once the collection is assessed shortly after its arrival, the Ransom Center will provide a closer estimate of when the materials will be made available for students and researchers.
"The acquisition of the Norman Mailer archive further solidifies the legacy of Harry Ransom and Tom Staley in establishing our Humanities Research Center as the premier resource for pursuing significant social and literary developments of the 20th century," said Executive Vice President and Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson. "Closing this agreement is a red-letter day."
The Mailer archive was acquired for $2.5 million, $1.25 million of which was funded by individual and foundation gifts raised by the Ransom Center for this specific acquisition. The remaining $1.25 million comes from funds dedicated to strengthening the research capacity of the university. Mailer will donate $250,000 to the Ransom Center for cataloguing, maintenance and support of the collection.
"Having Mailer's complete archive located in a single place means that scholars will be able to track and assess the full spectrum of changes and additions to his works-in-progress with confidence," said J. Michael Lennon, professor of English at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and archivist of the Mailer collection. "The fact that all of his publishing contracts and business records, as well as a complete file of his personal and business correspondence is also present, means that solid contextual evidence is also available."