Author Norman Mailer Dead at 84

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Norman Mailer, the Pulitzer Prize Winning novelist and journalist died today. He was 84 years old.

REPORTER: Mailer was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, and grew up in Brooklyn. He became a national celebrity in his 20s for his novel "The Naked and the Dead," which was inspired by his wartime experiences in the Phillippines.

Mailer joined WNYC’s Leonard Lopate back in 1991 to discuss his fictional account of life in the CIA, "Harlot's Ghost." He said the problem of identity was one of the most important questions of the 20th century and one that preoccupied him throughout his life.

MAILER: Writers like myself who succeed a little too early don't really have a sense of identity, because they don't know who they are. You know, are they the kid who wrote the book that got them there? Or are they the now suddenly successful writer? You're really between two worlds.

REPORTER: In the late 1950s Norman Mailer co-founded The Village Voice, the first of America's alternative weeklies. His writing and activism in the 60s confirmed his status as a major American essayist and social commentator.

In 1969 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book "The Armies of the Night" about Vietnam War protest, and again in 1980 for "The Executioner's Song," which dealt with the first person to be executed after the Supreme Court lifted its ban on capital punishment.

Norman Mailer died of renal failure at Mount Sinai Hospital early this morning.