What was it like to spend several years writing a book inside the mind of a devil?
It was refreshing. It opened all sorts of novelistic possibilities; it enabled me to enter many peoples minds.
Do you believe in God?
I believe God is a great artist, a great creator, and is doing the best that he or she can do against serious odds. And these odds are embodied by a concept or an element called the devil.
Then you believe in Satan, too?
Well, it isnt that I believe in Satan, in that Satan will get me if I open my yap again. But I do believe that there are evil principles in the universe, and I think theyre embodied in something we call the devil or Satan or what have you.
I would call this a Jewish book probably your first because it addresses Jewish concerns and singular Jewish tragedies. Do you agree?
This book is going to be very upsetting to a great many Jews. Theyre going to say, How could you do it? This boy, up to 16, had periods when he was not unsympathetic. There are times when he was just a little boy. Why are you doing that? Youre making Hitler more alive. And my argument would be, in return, that its very important to try to understand the nature of Adolf Hitler, because hes absolutely unlike any other villain in history.
But by giving this devil so much influence over Hitler, arent you diminishing his culpability?
I dont think I changed the equation. Whats important is that theres an evil force in the world which is huge and immense and in my opinion is probably equal to God. I think theyre having an immense and terrible war.
You hint at a sequel at the end of this book.
I cant promise it. Im going to be 84 in a few weeks.
Hopefully Ill still be around. But to promise it as this point would be a folly. Ive promised too many books in previous years. [Mailer turned 84 on January 31.]
What about a sequel to Harlots Ghost?
I had finally, after seven years, gotten ready to write the sequel to that, and then it was as if, No, no, no. This is the book to write.
Youve lived in Provincetown for many years and have seen a lot of change.
It hasnt changed that much. The people have changed totally. And the outskirts of the town, yes, a lot of fancy architecture. But the middle of the towns the same. Also, I tend not to be nostalgic, because I think nostalgia is for adolescents.
Do you like it better in summer or winter?
I like it best now. Its good for work. In the summer its kind of like St. Tropez, its just insane. And I dont mind bad weather; I do a lot of writing when the weathers bad.