The Super Fun Kids' Graphic Novel Sale

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores


Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


The Prisoner of Sex

The Castle in the Forest: A Novel by Norman Mailer

Reviewed by Ruth Franklin
The New Republic Online

"The reader strong-stomached enough to make it to the end of Norman Mailer's new novel, which comprises nearly five hundred of the most revolting pages in recent American fiction, will discover a refreshing oasis of reason. This oasis is a bibliography of more than a hundred assiduously chosen books, many of them mainstays of the scholarship and literature of Nazi Germany: Ian Kershaw's two-volume biography of Hitler; the works of Hugh Trevor-Roper, Joachim Fest, Ernst Nolte, and George Mosse; even Dr. Faustus. A note from Mailer solemnly informs us that certain titles, marked with an asterisk, 'did provide me...with a bounty of factual and chronological references that a novel in this form can never ignore'...." Read the entire New Republic Online review.

3 Responses to "The Prisoner of Sex"

    Rita Herbst February 15th, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    This is one of the very worst books that I have ever read. I could not find one redeeming aspect. Perhaps a good classification would be "Sick history".

    Jim Kenny July 9th, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    This is one of the finest novels I have ever read, certainly Mailer's best! The deplorable and wrong-headed comments written by Ruth Graham (Billy's wife?) and dittoed by Rita Herbst are truly sad and depressing. Mailer, always a writer of ideas, likes to also employ a great deal of sexuality in his novels. He certainly does so here. But, it seems to me, these sexual passages have tremendous and telling redeeming value--as art.

    I totally discount and reject his putative central conceit: that there were devils at work in the creation of Adolph Hitler. But in a world in which so many see, feel and believe in devils and angels, Mailer's fashioning of a rollicking tale using these fictional creatures is fascinating. I was so taken up with his weird and delicious story of the Hitler family, I wished it would go on in just that vein; it was positively Rothian in its precise analysis of a family dynamic. I think Ruth and Rita makes the wimpiest and least-forgivable mistake of all in their comments: the authorial fallacy. Poor Norman, he finally writes his masterpiece, but in his 80s some people still only see him as the prisoner of sex...

    djon November 11th, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Ruth Franklin damned the book because it doesn't meet her tasteful literary standards.

    And of course, she read somewhere that the banality of evil precludes devils. She dared to quibble with Mailer's amusing premise, but proved ill equipped to duke it out.

    Executioner's Song: Had she read it, she would know Mailer suspected that evil exists as surely as Utah, and not everything is relative.

    Ms. Franklin has measured a great author for Better Homes and Gardens, confirming something Mailer told us many times.

Post a comment:

Get Your Gravatar

  1. Please note:
  2. All comments require moderation by staff.
  3. Comments submitted on weekends might take until Monday to appear.
PowellsBooks.Blog uses Gravatar to allow you to personalize the icon that appears beside your name when you post. If you don't have one already, get your Gravatar today!
  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at