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PRIVACY POLICY

The Norman Mailer Center & The Norman Mailer Writer's Colony

Writers Council


Joan Didion
Nat'l Book Award Winner

Joan Didion

Nat'l Book Award Winner

Born in Sacramento, California, Didion graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1956 with a BA in English. Much of Didion's writing draws upon her life in California, particularly during the 1960s as the world in which she grew up "began to seem remote". Her non-fiction portraits of conspiracy theorists, paranoiacs, and sociopaths are now considered part of the canon of American literature. She has developed a very distinct writing style in which commas, and imposters (not to mention her frequent employment of parentheses) litter her sentences. Written in narrative form, they are usually filled with different concepts as well. She employs 'narrative' almost as a literary tool, such as citing another's essay in order to reach the reader. Often failing to structure her essays around a singular point as is conventional, Didion touches on numerous issues that can be tied into (however remotely) her original topic.[citation needed]   

Didion is the author of five novels and eight books of nonfiction. Her early collections of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979) -- a book described in one review as helping to define California as "the paranoia capital of the world" -- made her famous as an observer of American politics and culture with a distinctive style of reporting that mixed personal reflection and social analysis. These qualities led her to be associated with members of the New Journalism such as Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson, though Didion's ties to that movement have never been considered particularly strong. 

In 2001, Didion published Political Fictions, a collection of essays which had first appeared in the New York Review of Books. Issues and personalities covered in the essays included The Religious Right, Newt Gingrich, and the Reagan administration. 

Where I Was From (2003), a memoir, explores the mythologies of California, and the author's relationship to her birthplace and to her mother. Indirectly, it also serves as a rumination on the American frontier myth and the culture that we see today in California as a direct consequence of a population of survivalists who made it "through the Sierra," finally posing the question "at what cost progress?"   

Didion's latest book, The Year of Magical Thinking, was published October 4, 2005. The book-length essay chronicles the year following her husband's death, during which their daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, was also gravely ill. The book is both a vivid personal account of losing a partner after 40 years of professional collaboration and marriage, and a broader attempt to describe the mechanism that governs grief and mourning.  Didion later adapted the memoir into a one-woman play, which premiered on Broadway in 2007 to mixed reviews and starred her friend Vanessa Redgrave. The play includes the event of Quintana's death, technically spanning its timeline to over a year and a half.

Joan Didion Nat'l Book Award Winner
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Pulitzer Prize Winner

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize Winner

Doris Kearns won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in 1964. Goodwin went to Washington, D.C., as a White House Fellow in 1967 during the Johnson administration, working as his assistant. After Johnson left office, she assisted the President in drafting his memoirs. After LBJ's retirement in 1969, Goodwin taught government at Harvard for ten years, including a course on the American Presidency. 

In 1977, her first book was published Lyndon Johnson & the American Dream, drawing on her conversations with the late president. This book became a New York Times bestseller and provided a launching pad for her literary career. 

Goodwin was the first female journalist to enter the Boston Red Sox locker room. She consulted on and appeared in Ken Burns' 1994 documentary Baseball. 

Goodwin won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The American Homefront During World War II. Goodwin received an honorary L.H.D. from Bates College in 1998. 

Goodwin won the 2005 Lincoln Prize (for best book about the American Civil War) for Team of Rivals, a book about Abraham Lincoln's Presidential Cabinet. She is currently a member of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission advisory board.

Doris Kearns Goodwin Pulitzer Prize Winner
William Joseph Kennedy
Pulitzer Prize Winner

William Joseph Kennedy

Pulitzer Prize Winner

William Joseph Kennedy (born January 16, 1928) is an American writer and journalist born and raised in Albany, New York. Many of his novels feature the interaction of members of the fictional Irish-American Phelan family, and make use of incidents of Albany's history and the supernatural. Kennedy's works include The Ink Truck (1969), Legs (1975), Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (1978), Ironweed (1983, winner of 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; film, 1987), and Roscoe (2002). 

He is a graduate of Siena College in Loudonville, New York and currently resides at Averill Park, a hamlet about 16 miles east of Albany. After serving in the Army, Kennedy lived in Puerto Rico where he met his mentor, Saul Bellow, who encouraged him to write novels. While living in San Juan, he befriended journalist/author Hunter S. Thompson, a friendship that continued throughout their careers. Kennedy, who had previously been anxious to leave Albany, returned to his hometown and worked for the Albany Times Union as an investigative journalist writing stories exposing activities of the O'Connell political machine. His use of Albany as the setting for seven of his novels has drawn comparison to James Joyce's use of Dublin.

William Joseph Kennedy Pulitzer Prize Winner
Colum McCann
National Book Award Winner

Colum McCann

National Book Award Winner

Colum McCann is the author of five novels and two collections of stories.  His most recent novel "Let the Great World Spin" won the National Book Award in 2009.  He was nominated for an Oscar in 2005 for the short film "Everything in this Country Must," directed by Gary McKendry.  Colum's work is published in over 30 languages.

Colum McCann National Book Award Winner
Salman Rushdie
Booker Prize Winner

Salman Rushdie

Booker Prize Winner

Born in Bombay, India, Salman Rushdie is the internationally acclaimed author of eleven novels including Midnight’s Children, winner of the Booker Prize in 1981, The Satanic Verses, and the forthcoming Luka and the Fire of Life. An elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he also holds the rank of Commandeur in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France’s highest artistic honor. He was knighted for services to literature in 2007, and ranked among the "50 greatest British writers since 1945" by The Times. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages

Salman Rushdie Booker Prize Winner
Gay Talese
George Polk Award Winner

Gay Talese

George Polk Award Winner

Gay Talese is known for his daring pursuit of "unreportable" stories, for his exhaustive research and for his formally elegant style. He wrote for The New York Times in the early 1960s and helped to define literary journalism or "new nonfiction reportage", also known as New Journalism. 

In 1953, he moved to New York City and found work as a copyboy at the New York Times and he showed up for his in hand stitched Italian suits. He eventually was able to get an article published in the Times, albeit unsigned (without credit). In "Times Square Anniversary" (November 2, 1953), he interviewed the man who was responsible for running the headlines that flash across the famous marquee above Times Square. A year later Talese was drafted into the United States Army. 

Talese was drafted into the United States Army in 1954 and worked in the Office of Public Information where he found himself once again working for the local paper, Inside the Turret, and once again soon had his own column, "Fort Knox Confidential.

When Talese completed his military obligation in 1956 he returned to New York as a full-fledged sports reporter. He would write 38 articles about Floyd Patterson alone. 

Talese wrote The Bridge (1964), a reporter-style, non- fiction depiction of the construction of the Verrazano- Narrows Bridge in New York City. Talese's 1966 Esquire article on Frank Sinatra, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," is one of the most influential American magazine articles of all time, and a pioneering example of New Journalism. With what some have called a brilliant structure and pacing, the article focused not just on Sinatra himself, but also on Talese's pursuit of his subject. 

In 1969 he wrote the The Kingdom and the Power. Talese's celebrated Esquire piece about Joe DiMaggio, The Silent Season of a Hero, in part a meditation on the transient nature of fame?also appeared in 1966. When a number of Esquire pieces were collected into a book called Fame and Obscurity Talese paid tribute in its introduction to two writers he admired by citing "an aspiration on my part to somehow bring to reportage the tone that Irwin Shaw and John O'Hara had brought to the short story." Honor Thy Father (1971) was made into a feature film. In 1981 he wrote Thy Neighbor?s Wife and in 1992 Unto the Sons which was followed by Origins of a Nonfiction Writer (1996) and A Writer?s Life (2006). He recently was awarded the George Polk Award.

Gay Talese George Polk Award Winner