Thursday, December 26, 2013

Former Sangamon State instructor is famed writer Mailer's authorized biographer

J. Michael Lennon said he had two reactions when he was tabbed to write the authorized biography of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Norman Mailer.

“One, was, OK, this is going to be a (huge) job,” said Lennon, 71, who spent two decades at Sangamon State University (now University of Illinois Springfield) as an administrator and instructor. “The other, of course, was that I was terrifically excited.

“But I knew if I was going to get it done, it had to be a total commitment.”

Lennon spent a monk-like four years writing “Norman Mailer: A Double Life” (Simon & Schuster), which came out in October to mostly positive reviews. That was after he did three years of research and interviewing friends, editors and family members of Mailer, who died in 2007.

Despite its imprimatur, the tome, which runs 900-plus pages, isn’t a hagiography of one of the most colorful literary figures of the 20th century. Lennon said that if he had Mailer’s approval, Mailer also had his back, giving him unfettered access to letters and other personal papers and in his interviews.

The story was published by The State Journal-Register on December 26, 2013.

Read the article online