Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968)

Mailer was present at both the Republican and Democratic Conventions in 1968, held in Miami and Chicago respectively. Calling himself “the reporter” he gives his perspective on these events in two parts, the first dealing with the nomination of Richard Nixon, the second with the nomination of Hubert Humphrey, as well as the protests and police brutality. Throughout the book, Mailer gives a good impression of the way he feels about the candidates and some of the larger developments that were taking place, such as the decline of the protest movement and the ongoing conflict in Vietnam. He also places the convention within the context of the larger election, discussing important events like the assassination of Robert Kennedy at length. It has been compared to Armies and taking the two books together, critics felt that Mailer had matured as an author, which is particularly evident from his discussion of what happened in Chicago. Some of what he left out in the part on Miami, the older, more mature Mailer would have included (Zaks), indicating the progress that is visible even within this book. What stood out about this novel in particular is that his descriptions of McCarthy supporters are rather underwhelming, focusing on the politicians, rather than on the protesters or on himself. His description of Humphrey during his nomination speech in particular stood out to critics, as devastating (Shaw 1), by exposing him not as a fraud or a villain, but simply a ridiculous figure who cannot be taken seriously. Likewise, his account of Richard Nixon is very interesting because it is almost sympathetic (Shaw 3), but has a certain unease to it that leaves readers with an uncertain feeling about Nixon. In 2008, Hitchens wrote about the significance of the book in terms of writing about conventions, as that had traditionally been a dry affair, something that Mailer changed fundamentally. He also credits Mailer for being prescient, for example about Nixon’s victory and the fact that Reagan might become of greater influence down the line (268). All of this makes the book not just an important document about politics at that time, but also of the future of politics as people, or at least Mailer, saw it at that time.

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