“His Usual Obscene and Bitter Style”

After Norman Mailer died last year, the Washington Post FOIA’d the FBI’s files on the author. And inside that file (165 of its 171 pages were released) was evidence of … not much—except, perhaps, J. Edgar Hoover‘s pettiness. The Mailer file started in 1962, when the author called Jacqueline Kennedy excessively soft-spoken; from then on, the file mainly became a stack of press clippings and Mailer book excerpts, though occasionally FBI agents were a little more nosy, impersonating friends to extract his current whereabouts. But one bit in the story suggests that at least one anonymous Fed had to play book reviewer. An angry, partisan book reviewer:

In 1969, at Hoover’s direction, an agent prepared a five-page, single-spaced review of Mailer’s book “Miami and the Siege of Chicago,” about the 1968 political conventions. The review carefully itemized all six references made to the FBI.

“It is written in his usual obscene and bitter style,” the agent wrote. “Book contains reference to . . . uncomplimentary statements of the type that might be expected from Mailer regarding the FBI and the Director.”

One question: Why won’t the pioneering washingtonpost.com post documents from the FBI file alongside the article?

3 thoughts on ““His Usual Obscene and Bitter Style”

  1. Pingback: Maud Newton: Blog
  2. I think the Washington Post didn’t post this stuff because it isn’t all that relevent or revealing. It does make you feel a little irritated at Big-Brotherish administrations, but who wants to be reminded of that now?

  3. Fair point, Natalya. I’m not expecting any smoking guns in these files, but I’m a document junkie, so I can’t help but be curious. I want to know what a five-page FBI book review looks like….

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