Norman Mailer is dead. AP story here. Author of many books including The Naked and the Dead, The Executioner's Song, The Armies of the Night, and Harlot's Ghost.

He was An Important Novelist back when that phrase meant something, when people expectantly awaited the next book from Mailer, or Vidal, or Updyke. Novels no longer have a big place in contemporary culture. People await movies, or television shows, or video games. I do not think I am simply being a Luddite or curmudgeon when I say it is a shame.

A good novel immerses the reader in a slice of the universe, real or imagined, in a way that a movie cannot. Movies are flat. The nature of their medium prohibits the kind of richly detailed characters, events, and issues that one can find in a rich novel. Compare Moby Dick to any movie made from it, or read Rabbit, Run then watch the movie (to take nothing away from James Caan). Read a James Joyce novel and try to write a screenplay.

And, novels can provoke sustained thought in a way movies cannot. We can pause a novel any time by lifting our eyes from the page. We can reflect on a word, a phrase, an idea for a moment, a cup of coffee, or an entire day, and lose nothing. Good reading is an active interaction between reader and author, beyond the experience of a movie.

Authors like himself, he said more than once, had become anachronisms as people focused on television and young writers aspired to screenwriting or journalism.

When he was young, Mailer said, "fiction was everything. The novel, the big novel, the driving force. We all wanted to be Hemingway ... I don't think the same thing can be said anymore. I don't think my work has inspired any writer, not the way Hemingway inspired me."