Mr. Mailer added: “I don’t think they have any interest in trying to cancel Norman Mailer. You can’t cancel Norman Mailer.”
A spokeswoman for Random House said in a statement that it is “factually incorrect that Random House canceled an upcoming book of essays by Norman Mailer,” adding that the book was never under contract and that Random House continues to publish much of Mailer’s backlist.
The literary agent Andrew Wylie, who represents the Mailer estate, wrote in an email that there hadn’t been any falling out between the Mailer estate and his longtime publisher. “There is no issue here. Random House is proud to publish Norman Mailer, and intends to promote his work significantly for the centennial, in tandem with the publication by Skyhorse of the anthology,” he said. “The Mailer family and Random House are united in support of Norman’s work.”
Still, the company’s decision unleashed yet another debate over “cancel culture” and censorship. Some argued that publishers have become too fearful of provoking controversy or becoming targets of critical social-media campaigns, and have pulled back from publishing provocative or polarizing authors.
Skyhorse, an independent press, has become something of a last refuge for authors. In recent years, it has scooped up titles that were abandoned by other houses, including a memoir by Woody Allen, which Hachette dropped after its own workers protested, and a biography of Philip Roth, which W.W. Norton pulled from circulation after its author, Blake Bailey, was accused of sexual assault and misconduct.
In an email, Skyhorse’s president and publisher, Tony Lyons, called Mailer “one of the most dramatic, controversial and enduring writers of his generation” and said the as-yet untitled book is scheduled for release next year.
A prolific and combative writer who published around 40 books and was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Norman Mailer was married six times and was also famous for his extraordinary ego. In 1960, at the end of a party announcing his plan to run for mayor of New York City, he stabbed his second wife, Adele Mailer, in the stomach and back with a penknife, seriously wounding her.