Norman Mailer, conceptual innovator, dies at age 84

Norman MailerTry this one on for size — Norman Mailer as conceptual innovator.

Like most such innovators, he did what’s arguably his best work at the start of his career. That’s “The Naked and the Dead” from his mid-20s.

Like most such innovators, he kept changing his subject matter and style. His topics ranged from that war novel to protest marches to death-row inmate to Jesus to conceptual-innovator Picasso to astronauts.

By continually moving on to new fields of endeavor, he avoided the mid- and late-career slump that conceptual innovators often hit. That accounts for his great mid-life successes — his Pulitzer-prize-winning “The Armies of the Night” from his mid-40s and “The Executioner’s Song” from his mid-50s.

Mailer died today in Manhattan.

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