Mailer proves you don’t have to utter a word to lie to a lover. Plenty, however, is said. We are in Desert D’Or, Mailer’s fictional get-away town for Hollywood’s royalty and wash-ups, set in the fifties. The royalty are haughty, the wash-ups are manic-depressive, all are loquacious; they perform the drama of their every-changing minds as if a civic duty.
There is a story here about the red scare and the blacklist, the politics and corruption of movie making. A story, also, of our narrator’s search for identity, written in prose that reads like Somerset Maugham if he’d had Hemingway’s sexuality. (Both get a nod from Mailer.) Yet what’s most interesting, as always, is what happens in the bedroom.
Eager to love and be loved the characters act with a reckless sensuality that is heartbreakingly human. Couples go to bed drunk, make it and profess love undying while instantaneously savoring details of an ongoing affair; or quarrel heinously then, forgiving everything and nothing, convalesce with tender caresses. All the while their internal ambivalences are captured in knuckle-biting clarity, and we see the common lie is that everyone fucks and everyone loves with one foot planted for escape.