(AP Photo/David Pickoff)
Mailer died Saturday of acute renal failure at Mount Sinai Hospital, J. Michael Lennon, the author's literary executor and biographer, said.
"He was a great American voice," said a tearful Joan Didion, author of "The Year of Magical Thinking" and other works, struggling for words upon learning of Mailer's death.
From his classic debut novel to such masterworks of literary journalism as "The Armies of the Night," the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner always got credit for insight, passion and originality.
Mailer built and nurtured an image over the years as bellicose, streetwise and high-living. He drank, fought, smoked pot, married six times and stabbed his second wife, almost fatally, during a drunken party.
(Associated Press file)
Norman Mailer was born Jan. 31, 1923, in Long Branch, N.J. His father, Isaac, a South Africa-born accountant, and mother, Fanny, who ran a housekeeping and nursing agency, soon moved to Brooklyn.
Mailer earned an engineering science degree in 1943 from Harvard University, where he decided to become a writer, and was soon drafted into the Army. Sent to the Philippines as an infantryman, he saw enough of soldiering to provide a basis for his first book, "The Naked and the Dead," published in 1948 while he was a postgraduate student in Paris.
Lennon said arrangements for a private service and burial for family members and close friends would be announced next week, and a memorial service would be held in New York in the coming months.