Tough Guys Don’t Dance


Norman Mailer

Random House



The style of the novel is a game in which Mickey Spillane meets the Beats, who spill and wash over him in the end like a wave. Nothing too literal, not Spillane and not the Beats, not too fine a point on it, because what Mailer wants and counts on and nurtures like a pythoness is the breath of Poe occurring in the seam.


This accounts for the inchoate jumble perceived, it might almost be said, by some of the critics. The character is wobbly, that of the narrator, he is a writer and suffers the sea change.


Mailer has sacrificed a surface precision for one of form, which is the content, and the bonus he reaps is an unexacted potential for le mot juste. “With the sun on his face he looked, particularly at this short distance, like a dollop of oatmeal.”