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, released 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 Included in the plethora of papers were over 45,000 letters written to and by Mailer, unpublished journals and interviews with Mailer, his friends and family.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 is the late Norman Mailer's archivist, editor, and authorized biographer. Norman Mailer: A Double Life (Simon & Schuster, 2013) was chosen as an "Editors' Choice" book by the New York Times Book Review and was one of Amazon's top twenty nonfiction books of the year. The paperback edition, published October 28, 2104, was chosen as the top paperback bio for October by the Times of London. For Random House, he recently edited Selected Letters of Norman Mailer, published December 2, 2014. Other books include: Norman Mailer: Works and Days (2000) (with Donna Pedro Lennon), the recipient of a Choice Magazine award for "outstanding scholarly title" in 2001; and he edited Conversations with Norman Mailer (1988), The James Jones Reader (1991), and The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing (2003). He is the current president of The Norman Mailer Society and past president of The James Jones Literary Society, and serves as 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, New England Review, Narrative and Journal of Modern Literature, among others. He co-authored Mailer's last book, On God: An Uncommon Conversation (2007), and in 2012, edited Mailer's biography of Marilyn Monroe, Norman Mailer/Bert Stern: Marilyn Monroe, also for Taschen. Recently, he edited the Taschen edition of Mailer's The Fight (out in spring 2015), and contributed the introduction to the Taschen edition of Mailer's ground-breaking essay on JFK, "Superman Comes to the Supermarket," published November 1, 2014. 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, which he co-founded, and at 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, and was a Fellow there in 2009. He is currently working on a new biography (with his son Joseph, and brother Peter) titled, Sixteen Handshakes to Shakespeare. He is married to the former Donna Pedro; they live in Westport, Massachusetts.

J. Michael Lennon at Wilkes UniversityClick here to go back to faculty listing

J. Michael Lennon's website

 "Mike Discusses Norman Mailer and Jack Abbott"
 Recorded at Wilkes University, 2012
"Mike Discusses Norman Mailer's Letters"
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

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