The Armies of the Night
First edition cover
|Publisher||New American Library|
The Armies of the Night is a nonfiction novel written by Norman Mailer and published by New American Library in 1968. It won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction and the National Book Award in category Arts and Letters.
The book's full title is Armies of the Night: History as a Novel/The Novel as History. Mailer essentially created his own genre; as the subtitle suggests, the narrative is split into historicized and novelized accounts of the October 1967 March on the Pentagon. Mailer's unique rendition of the non-fiction novel was one of only a few at the time, and received the most critical attention. In Cold Blood (1965) by Truman Capote and Hell's Angels (1966) by Hunter S. Thompson had already been published, and three months later Tom Wolfe would contribute The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968).
The book deals ostensibly with the March on the Pentagon (the October 1967 anti-Vietnam War rally in Washington, D.C.) While Mailer dips into familiar territory, his fiction—self-portrait—the outlandish, third person account of himself along with self-descriptions such as a novelist/historian, anti-star/hero are made far more complex by the narrative's overall generic identification as a nonfiction novel. Two years before Armies was published, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, who had just been called by George Plimpton (among others) the "inventor" of the nonfiction novel, claimed that the genre should exclude any mention of its subjectivity and refrain from the first person. While to some extent satirizing Capote's model, Mailer's role in center stage is hardly self-glamorizing, as the narrative recounts the events leading up to the March as well as his subsequent arrest and night in jail. The first section, "History as a Novel", begins: "From the outset, let us bring you news of your protagonist", with an account made by TIME about: "Washington's scruffy Ambassador Theater, normally a pad for psychedelic frolics, was the scene of an unscheduled scatological solo last week in support of the peace demonstrations. Its anti-star was author Norman Mailer, who proved even less prepared to explain Why Are We In Vietnam? than his current novel bearing that title." After citing the entire article, Mailer then closes, "1: Pen Pals" with "Now we may leave Time in order to find out what happened." What creates the difference between Mailer's example and Capote's is not only the autobiography of Armies, but the irony which guides the narrator towards the same objective of empiricism as that of In Cold Blood. The non-conformity which Mailer exhibits to Capote's criterion was the beginning of a feud that never resolved between the authors, and was ended with Capote's death in 1984.
The year Armies was published, 1968, Mailer would begin work on another project, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, after witnessing the Republican and Democratic National Conventions that year. Mailer's recounting, though quite different in terms of his self-portrait, takes on a comparable rhetorical approach to evoking what he saw as historical underpinnings.
List of references to famous people in the book
List of references to other books in the book
- All the King's Men, (1946) by Robert Penn Warren
- A Primer on Money, Banking, and Gold, (1965) by Peter L. Bernstein