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In His Book, Mailer Says Wolfe Overused Steroids

Published: February 12, 2005

Norman Mailer, the self-anointed "godfather of steroids," alleges in his new book that Tom Wolfe, a former New Journalism peer, "went overboard with steroids" and became "the most outright juicer in literature."

Mailer wrote that Wolfe’s prose "has the most obvious steroid physique I've ever seen in my life." The San Francisco Chronicle reported last year that Wolfe testified to the grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative that he used steroids before publishing “I Am Charlotte Simmons” in 2004 but not as early as 1997, when he published “A Man In Full.”

Mailer said that after Wolfe overused steroids and human growth hormone, his prose got "so bloated, it was unbelievable."

"There was no definition to his chapters at all," Mailer wrote. "You could see the retention of modifiers, especially adjectives; to those in the know, that was a sure sign of steroid overload."

In "Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits and How Literature Got Big" (Regan Books), Mailer wrote that he was a scholarly and careful drug user who first used steroids after his directorial debut, “Tough Guys Don’t Dance,” bombed, then introduced other literary figures to them a few years later. He continued to do so throughout his career, until, he said, steroid use became widespread.

“I felt like I could write anything,” Mailer wrote in the book. “A thousand-page novel about the history of the CIA that ends with ‘To Be Continued’? Knocked it out in a f---ing weekend.”

Mailer portrays himself in the book as a proselytizer for steroids and human growth hormone to friends and rival authors, describing for them the effects of individual drugs and where to buy them. Mailer called responsible steroid use "an opportunity, not a danger" and said that those who say otherwise speak "from ignorance."

Mailer wrote that he converted Tom Wolfe to steroid use in 1988 and witnessed how his prose bulked up. "After a night at Le Cirque or right before readings, Tom and I would duck into a stall in the men's room, load up our syringes and inject ourselves," Mailer wrote.

He added: "I was the godfather of the steroid revolution in literature, but Wolfe was right there with me as a living, thriving example of what steroids could do to make you a better writer."

Mailer said that he believed that his literary career ended because of his well-known reputation for using steroids, but once an outcast, he said, he became a performance-enhancing mentor to John Updike, Philip Roth, and Joyce Carol Oates.

"Soon I was injecting all three of them," he wrote. "I personally injected each of those three guys, many times. You think they average a book a year on talent alone at their age?”

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