Norman Mailer, champion of gritty realism, liberal politics, and debauchery, has been knifed by his literary children. According to Michael Wolff, a junior staffer at Random House objected to the publication of his essay “The White Negro” in a forthcoming collection, and the publisher has decided to drop the entire volume:

With slow-mo hammer-dropping predictability, Norman Mailer’s long-time publisher has recently informed the Mailer family that it has canceled plans to publish a collection of his political writings to mark the centennial of his birth in 2023, confirms the film producer Michael Mailer, the author’s oldest son. The back-door apologies at Random House include as the proximate cause — you hardly have to look hard in Mailer’s work to find offenses against contemporary doctrine and respectability — a junior staffer’s objection to the title of Mailer’s 1957 essay, “The White Negro,” a psycho-sexual-druggie precursor and model for much of the psycho-sexual-druggie literature that became popular in the 1960s. A Random House source also cites the objections of feminist and cultural gadfly Roxane Gay. Her name however may have been employed as merely a generic type of objector (as in, she or someone equally cause-minded who might object). Indeed, she protested in an email that she never voiced a view, that she knows “next to nothing about Norman Mailer.”

The folks at the New Republic doubt that a junior staffer would have such influence at Random House. They chalk up the decision to market forces. Mailer just ain’t that appealing anymore.

In the New York Times, Ross Douthat writes that “If it’s really true . . . that Random House will not be releasing a planned compilation of Norman Mailer’s writings on some sort of political-correctness grounds . . . then honestly, I’m a little bit disappointed in cancel culture.” It means “our would-be apparatchiks are getting lazy”:

“To take aim at J.K. Rowling, Dave Chappelle or even Dr. Seuss shows real censorious ambition. But to cancel Mailer at this moment would be an act of superfluity, like canceling Booth Tarkington or James Whitcomb Riley — a pointless kick to a fundamentally anachronistic character.

“I don’t mean that Mailer deserves permanent diminishment — far from it. But his reputational decline is so overdetermined, his persona so intensely out of step with our own era — the brawling macho solipsist who stabbed his own wife with a penknife — as to make him a comically easy and therefore pointless target for cancellation.

“Who would be a more worthy and imposing target, you might ask, if I were handing out assignments to the censors? Well, why not one of Mailer’s still-beloved contemporaries, a woman whose literary cult made her recent passing a major media event?

“You want to impress me? You want to flex some cultural muscle? Let’s see you cancel Joan Didion.”

Mailer will be OK, of course. The AP reports that the volume containing the essay will now be published by Skyhorse—the same publisher that printed Woody Allen’s canceled memoir and Blake Bailey’s Philip Roth bio. No surprise there.

In other news

From the media desk: Ben Smith, the former editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed and New York Times media columnist, is leaving the paper to start a new media company with the CEO of Bloomberg Media. Also, the New York Sun will relaunch at some point in the near future, though it will be an online-only publication.

Longform will no longer publish essay recommendations. They posted the following note on social media: “Longform is shutting down its article recommendations service. (The Longform Podcast will continue to publish new episodes weekly.) Thank you to our contributing editors, our supporters, and the publications, writers, and readers who made it all possible. We will miss you.”

Teaching James Joyce’s Ulysses at 100.

The demand for vinyl records continues to grow.

Remembering Dennis Owens, DC’s witty classical music host:

Having worked as a country and western DJ in Canada and a pop jock in Bermuda, Mr. Owens brought to classical radio a brash, sometimes biting style that he used to break the stereotype of the classical DJ as a stuffed shirt who might order you to turn your radio off if you mispronounced a German composer’s name. “This is not music for people who understand it,” he told The Post in 1997. “It is music to be enjoyed. The people who complain when I play ‘Star Wars’ are retired, in their living rooms, prepared to be concert-hall entertained. I play music for people who are in their frigging cars, they’re agitated by the traffic and they want something to soothe them.”

What happened to travel writing? “Travel sections in bookshops, as the academic and travel writing enthusiast Tim Hannigan recently noted in his book about the decline of this literary form, The Travel Writing Tribe, have been reduced to “three feet of guidebooks and celebrity jaunts”. Meanwhile, travel books struggle to make the literary review sections of papers, the genre often being completely overlooked in the annual Christmas round-ups, for example. What has happened?”

How crazy was Louis Wain? “The 1960s generation claimed the artist as a proto-freak for his psychedelic cats that looked like they were bombed out of their tiny minds.”