I had never read any Mailer, and I am passionate about all things Chicago. And I’ve been pretty happy with the Classics series put out by the New York Review of Books. The combination was appealing. The book, however, was not.
Frank Rich, in the introduction, lauds Mailer’s style. I don’t know enough about the evolution of political journalism to comment, but if you are impressed by endless sentences and paragraphs as well as gaping holes in your logic, then this book is probably for you. Mailer spends a great deal of time on the appearance of things – the delegates, the candidates, etc. – and from there leaps to wild conclusions about their thoughts and chances for success. He does make an interesting chorus out of the phrase “politics is property,” but he carries it so far that it becomes easy to see just how thin of an observation it is.
But Mailer’s favorite subject is, in the end, Mailer. He calls himself “the reporter” throughout and after several cameos, he puts himself at the center of stage as the Chicago convention winds down. By the end, I was rooting for the guy, almost certainly (Mailer suggests) a plant – who hits him in the face.