I just finished The Diving Bell & The Butterfly (and, on googling, I just found out there’s a movie). I enjoyed it. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but it felt as though it was a little different than whatever it was I expected. Perhaps because he didn’t talk so much about the mental experience of being trapped in his own body? I’d thought there would be more of that, perhaps – but it was more reminiscing, imagining, drifting. Lovely, but I didn’t feel that I understood much better, at the end, what it was like to be him, as a person with locked-in syndrome.
The other one I read was The Naked and the Dead. Which was excellent. Mailer creates an in-depth world, one that feels real, and present, and because he picks the right scale, it manages to be a story about a part of the war, where you see the soldiers and the general. No sense of the overarching sweep of it, but a sense of what it might have been like to be there, a little bit.
Some of his flashbacks felt incongruous – possibly it was as simple as the formatting, a typographical marker when there weren’t any others anywhere in the novel, and it might have been done more simply with words.
One thing I did really enjoy was how he portrayed human minds, human experiences of the world, shifting rapidly between one state and another:
But the moods all change. After they become drunk, there is the pleasurable sadness of late spring evenings, the cognition of all hope and longing arrayed against the casual ugly attrition of time. A good mood …
There are others, but I’ve lost the pages. It’s worth reading.
Oh; and while I won’t say too much, for fear of spoiling the plot, Mailer in this one does a brilliant job of investing in every character, even in those who will die suddenly halfway through. Well before Game of Thrones was willing to kill characters you’d started to care about, apparently Mailer was already doing it.