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The Naked and the Dead  By  cover art

The Naked and the Dead

By: Norman Mailer
Narrated by: John Buffalo Mailer
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Publisher's Summary

Hailed as one of the finest novels to come out of the Second World War, The Naked and the Dead received unprecedented critical acclaim upon its publication and has since become part of the American canon. This fiftieth anniversary edition features a new introduction created especially for the occasion by Norman Mailer.

Written in gritty, journalistic detail, the story follows an army platoon of foot soldiers who are fighting for the possession of the Japanese-held island of Anopopei. Composed in 1948, The Naked and the Dead is representative of the best in twentieth-century American writing.

©1951 Norman Mailer (P)2016 Brilliance Audio. All rights reserved.

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John Buffalo Mailer narrates his father's book

Any additional comments?

I first started reading Norman Mailer’s books as a high school senior in 1970 with a paperback copy of ARMIES OF THE NIGHT, and have spent the years since reading all of his books—often reading them two or three times each--and considering Mailer as America’s best writer. Now we have the audible version of THE NAKED AND THE DEAD read by his son, John Buffalo Mailer.

John does an outstanding, professional, insightful, and loving job with the performance. I’ve listened to hundreds of audio books, and John Buffalo Mailer’s performance ranks among the best. I’m sure Norman would be extremely proud of him. I hope that John narrates other books by Norman Mailer that are not available as audio books, such as DEER PARK, THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG, WHY ARE WE IN VIETNAM, and my favorite, AN AMERICAN DREAM.It’s a shame these books, and all of Norman Mailer’s books, aren’t available as audio books.

Thankfully THE NAKED AND THE DEAD is now available, narrated superbly by John Buffalo Mailer.

20 people found this helpful

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A most fitting Memorial Day read

When I first began reading "The Naked and the Dead", the first important soldier's novel following World War II, I did not know that I would complete it on Memorial Day. At 721 pages (and over 27 hours in the Audible version exquisitely performed by Norman Mailer's son, John) , it is a masterfully told tale of a platoon of soldiers fighting on a Japanese occupied island in the South Pacific.

Based loosely on his own war experience in the Philippines, Norman Mailer tells a hard, brutal and gritty story of the men thrown randomly together by war. Some were Pearl Harbor inspired volunteers, some were draftees, some were in the army only because, compared to economic options at home, it was a pretty damn good income.

Our main characters are members of an Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon on the fictional island of Anopopei. Mailer moves back in forth in time as he reveals the lives of the platoon members as they find themselves tasked to launch a cross island scouting mission to ascertain the strength of the Japanese forces in advance of a full scale invasion. How they interact and talk to each other reveals the overt racism that existed in the ranks as the one Mexican and two Jewish members endure the barbs and epithets so common of the time.

The platoon is comprised of mostly seasoned vets who had survived a previous campaign and a few replacements assigned from headquarters to take part in their first scouting mission. With little accurate information with respect to the interior of the island and being led by an inexperienced, newly assigned lieutenant who had been tasked to take on the mission after falling on the wrong side of the Commanding General, the I&R platoon plunges into the dense jungle at the foot of an imposing range of mountains which bisected the island.

The tension and horrors of war play out throughout the novel with unexpected and tragic losses of the characters. Interestingly, as Mailer delves into the motivations of his characters, you catch the nuances of many in the both the officer's and enlisted ranks who embrace fascistic leanings who have a difficult time reconciling the alliance with the Communist Soviet Union and share more in common politically with the authoritarians they were fighting. It seemed that Mailer saw the foreshadowing of the rise of the totalitarian right wing intent on controlling the land of the free as soon as they could get their paws on it. That they cavalierly reviewed the numbers of the dead, both theirs and the enemy's, with little more than statistical consideration hints at how dismissive they are to value in human life as a component of their acquisition of power.

Mailer is one of America's best writers of the second half of the 20th Century. This debut novel was the portent of the written artistry to come.

7 people found this helpful

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Good and bad

Depends on what you want in a book. If you want a drama, then this is your book. 2% of the book was about battle movements and the rest was relational

6 people found this helpful

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What a performance!

A stunning and horrifying story of the realities of war and human nature.
Brilliantly narrated!

4 people found this helpful

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  • JB
  • 11-24-21

Excellent Novel on Human Nature

The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer, offers a raw and gripping glimpse of World War II combat in the Southwest Pacific Theater. Based on personal experiences, the book is set around a U.S. Army reconnaissance platoon and Mailer’s robust character development and gritty combat depictions are both first-rate.

In providing background and motivations for his characters, Mailer affords the reader with an understanding of lower and middle-class Americans during the interwar years. Most of the troops in this book were poor men, drafted against their will. Each one carries baggage from a former life. Each character is believable.

Being Jewish, he also offers unique insight into blatant racism in the ranks. Additionally, as a draftee in early 1944, Mailer counters popular belief that the “greatest generation” was comprised on a homogenized group of determined patriots intent on defeating a common enemy. Mailer’s soldiers are largely fighting for survival.

This 1948 novel, Mailer’s first, is significantly different from other novels of the 1920s though the 1940s or even early 1950s. Whereas other authors gloss over sensitive details, Mailer’s neither varnishes the crude language, nor shies away from the course nature of his characters or of the combat they experience. The corpses, both American and Japanese, are depicted in graphic detail. The men’s lust for the pleasures in life is stark and fully exposed. Love for family is evident. Oddly, however, Mailer doesn’t really depict strong bonds between any of the soldiers – certainly not my experience as a 23-year Marine.

Despite it’s many positive attributes, the book has a couple of minor drawbacks. First, some of the dialogue seems to be awkwardly placed within the book. It’s a stretch to believe that soldiers under fire or on a nerve-wrecking patrol would openly discuss personal matters at home. Additionally, the dialogue between Lieutenant Hearn and General Cummings is completely unrealistic and depicts Mailer’s lack of intimate knowledge of officer relationships. A Harvard educated enlisted man; he is at his best in crafting the dialogue that he was no doubt familiar with.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to students of military history or those generally interested in human nature.

3 people found this helpful

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Best audio book is hard so far.

The performance was totally immersive and entertaining. John must have made his father very proud wish this.

3 people found this helpful

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A GOOD READ...BUT BEST WAR NOVEL EVER?

This is a very good book. It's easy to see why Mailer became as famous as he did at such a young age. "The Naked and the Dead" is often hailed as the "Best novel to come out of the...war. Perhaps the best novel to come out of any war" (see book jacket comment from the San Francisco Chronicle). Not sure I agree with this at all. Best novel to come out of WWII? Perhaps. The characters are extremely interesting, complex, and varied. The story line? Pretty linear and tactical in the sense that its really only following a single platoon during the Pacific Island campaigns. There are quite a few war novels I have found to be better (I, for example, really liked Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny" and the "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" novels [the latter two of which would have been better left alone as books instead of ruining them as great stories by making made-for-TV movies out of them!] and James Webb's "Fields of Fire"). I liked it, but its a little overblown in its reference to the "greatest" ever as far as war novels go. Still, highly recommended reading!

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Not one of the best of the genre

Only halfway through, yet I'm near to calling it quits; something I just don't do with books.

The story is slow, meandering, tedious, talky, and a bit dated, as well. I don't feel it measures up to the praise heaped upon it, nor does it stand up to so many other books on WWII.

The narrator does a fine job mostly, with a steady, resonant voice; until he gets to the southerners...then it's just plain ugh! They are a l l almost unbearable in that they sound like a cross between Uncle Remus, Foghorn Leghorn, and Boss Hog, from that old TV show The Duke's of Hazard. The drrraawwlls are just too much.

Not sure I can hang in there until the end.

1 person found this helpful

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The Naked and the Dead

This novel was a delight and intrigue from beginning to end.

Well-chosen words create the pleasure of listening and cadence like poetry; detailed and rich images lead you into the sense of place; and psychological insight into men in general and men in war is terrifying and heartbreaking. This character development was pleasing even as some of it imitated stereotypes, with the performance keeping to the tone and dialect of the ethnic diversity. I being a woman of 74, with little military knowledge or history, was captivated by the dialogue and layered description.

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The hell of war

Gave new meaning to war in all of its postures. Very detailed with excellent visualization. Well written.

1 person found this helpful

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  • L Skipper
  • 01-18-17

absorbing

Rambling at times but also very compelling. More about human morality and nature than of war. I found it thought provoking and difficult to put down.

4 people found this helpful

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  • J. Gree
  • 08-31-20

Classic

Beautifully read, Very interesting voice and adapted to all the characters seamlessly. A no b*** s*** war story.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Hugo
  • 05-19-17

not sure why this book is so highly regarded

it has its moments but the narrators delivery of different characters made them all sound the same, so easily got lost in who was being spoken about. Also the characters were all pretty horrible and had not features that made me care about them at all.

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  • matthew r.
  • 10-27-22

great reading and voices. you do feel close 2 them

oh my god I don't have time to write poxy fifteen unique words yes that's true

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  • nzthim
  • 08-19-21

A bit of a slog but worth the read

This is regarded as one of the first great novels written about the Second World War. It draws on Mailer’s own experiences in the Pacific campaign to describe the battle to capture a Japanese island from the point of view of a platoon on the ground as they land ashore and undertake duties and patrols. There is a huge cast of characters and Mailer handles each at length. There are long passages of this novel spent developing the backstories and mentalities of each of these different soldiers and the way they interact with each other, the jungle, the war and their own ambitions, fears and resentments. It does mean that the actual plot often moves along at a labouring pace and you empathise with the default position of those in the book in waiting for something to happen. Some characters, such as Croft, are very well rounded while others play more minor roles and yet Mailer still dedicates long sections to their detailed backstories. I found this a little tiring as I didn’t necessarily care enough about these particular characters to feel the need to learn about their childhood. There are more than a few moments of brilliance however. The initial chapter covering the build up to landing on the island and the frantic moments on coming ashore is breathtaking. Mailer also successfully captures the depth of the soldiers’ struggle against the jungle and the landscape as much as against the Japanese army. Overall it’s a book worth reading. The journalistic style can make it hard going at times, but Mailer does manage to create an empathy with the soldiers, and the often mundane and menial ways they pass the time in war between the fighting.

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  • Mark Hayward
  • 04-11-18

Heroic Heartbreak Hopelessness

Mailer’s first novel is epic moving fabulous and yet depressing. Read by his son how does an excellent job, the author weaves a tale that brilliantly emphasises the futility and horror of war but more than that exposes the human cost painfully and honestly.

2 people found this helpful