Wilkes University

J. Michael Lennon


J. Michael Lennon

J. Michael Lennon Biography | Wilkes Creative Writing program | Multimedia

J. Michael Lennon, vice president emeritus for academic affairs, professor emeritus of English and co-founder of the graduate creative writing program at Wilkes University, release his new biography of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer. Norman Mailer: A Double Life was released Oct. 15 by Simon & Schuster and is described by The Washington Post as “a great wallop of a book.”J. Michael Lennon

Hailed as a “must read” by Kirkus Reviews, the book reflects Mailer’s dual identities: journalist and activist, devoted family man and notorious philanderer, intellectual and fighter, writer and public figure. Lennon is Mailer’s authorized biographer and was given access to thousands of letters, interviews and other materials. Integrating the streams of material became the most difficult part of the biography project for Lennon. Included in the plethora of papers were over 45,000 letters written to and by Mailer, unpublished journals and interviews with Mailer, his friends and family. One of Lennon’s chief challenges was ensuring that Mailer and his private life were accorded as much exposition and analysis as the public man.
He describes how he got to know the late author. “In 1971, right after he got into a tussle with Gore Vidal on the Dick Cavett Show, I wrote him a letter of support, and also passed on some of my theories about his recent nonfiction books, which were changing the way major events were reported,” Lennon says. Mailer was one of the leading voices of the New Journalism during the 1960s. This literary genre is a writing technique that combines fictional story telling with reportage.
After corresponding, Lennon and Mailer met in fall 1972 at Western Illinois University. Mailer had presented a reading from his account of the 1972 elections. “We talked late into the night at a local bar,” recalls Lennon, who chairs the Mailer Review board. “And every summer after that, my family and I visited him in Maine or Provincetown, Mass.” Over time, they grew closer as Lennon began editing books by and about Mailer. In 1986, after reading Lennon’s book, Critical Essays on Norman Mailer, Mailer asked him to serve as one of his literary executors.
J. Michael Lennon Teaches at Wilkes UniversityMailer described his relationship with Lennon in the preface of a bio-bibliography Norman Mailer: Works and Days, written by Lennon and his wife, Donna Pedro Lennon. “Sometimes I think Mike Lennon and I were as designed for each other as some species of American Yin and Yang, as hot dogs, perhaps, and mustard. His talents, his discipline, and his ambition form a compliment to all the slacks, voids, and indolences of my nature,” Mailer wrote.
Mailer won Pulitzer Prizes for The Armies of the Night and The Executioner’s Song. His first book, The Naked and the Dead, was an enormous bestseller, and Mailer would have 10 more bestsellers from the 44 books he published. He also was co-founder of The Village Voice.
Wilkes University offers the M.A./M.F.A. in Creative Writing with areas of study in creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, screenwriting and playwriting. New in 2014 are genres in publishing and making documentary films. Mailer, who died in 2007 at 84, was the founding chair of the program’s advisory board. Lennon co-founded the program with program director Bonnie Culver.


 Multimedia - 'Norman Mailer: A Double Life'


Norman Mailer: A Double Life Reviews
J. Michael Lennon
-- (Advisory Board Member, Faculty) Nonfiction Writer, Program Co-Founder.

J. Michael Lennon at Wilkes UniversityJ. Michael Lennon is the late Norman Mailer’s archivist and authorized biographer. He has written/edited several books about him, including Norman Mailer: Works and Days (2000), which was the recipient of a Choice Magazine award for “outstanding scholarly title” in 2001. Some of his other books are Critical Essays on Norman Mailer (1986), Conversations with Norman Mailer (1988), The James Jones Reader (1991), and The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing (2003). He is the past president of both The Norman Mailer Society and The James Jones Literary Society and serves on the boards of both organizations. He is also the Chair of the Editorial Board of The Mailer Review. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Mailer Review, New York Review of Books, James Jones Literary Society Journal, Playboy, Creative Nonfiction, Provincetown Arts, New York, Modern Fiction Studies, Modern Language Studies, Chicago Tribune, New England Review, Narrative and Journal of Modern Literature, among others. He co-authored with Mailer On God: An Uncommon Conversation (2007). Most recently, he edited Moonfire: The Epic Journey of Apollo 11 (Taschen 2009), an abridged version of Mailer’s 1971 narrative, Of a Fire on the Moon, with hundreds of NASA photographs; and in 2012, Norman Mailer/Bert Stern: Marilyn Monroe, also for Taschen. Lennon is currently editing Mailer’s letters for Random House, and writing the authorized biography, to be published by Simon and Schuster in 2013. His documentary, James Jones: From Reveille to Taps, was shown on PBS in 1984; The Lincolns of Springfield, Illinois was shown on PBS in 1990. He was a faculty member and Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Illinois-Springfield from 1972-1992. He is Emeritus Vice President for Academic Affairs and Emeritus Professor of English at Wilkes University. He continues to teach in the Wilkes M.F.A. Program and The Mailer Colony, and serves on the advisory boards of both. He served from 2005-2007 as a literary consultant at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas-Austin, where he assisted in the cataloging of Mailer’s papers, and was a Fellow there in 2009. Lennon received the A.B. from Stonehill College and the M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island. He is married to the former Donna Pedro; they are the parents of three sons and three grandchildren and live in Westport, Massachusetts.Click here to go back to faculty listing
 "Biographer, J. Michael Lennon, exposes the double life of Norman Mailer"  "Mike Discusses  Norman Mailer's Letters"
 by Simon & Schuster, 2013  Recorded at Wilkes University, 2012
 "Norman Mailer a ‘relentless innovator’ with writing"
J. Michael Lennon talks with The Cycle hosts
about how Norman Mailer changed American literature.
 MSNBC's The Cycle, 11/26/13