ENTER, CONVERSING by Clifton Fadiman


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Clifton Fadiman, essayist for Holiday (from which the current collection derives) and long the burrowing bookworm between the middlebrow and highbrow, has charm, a repertory of rewarding recollections, a captivating tone and a clear-eyed, comfortably unchallenging point-of-view. Everything's grist for his flourishing mill: hamburger emporiums (""our psyches have split palates""); pop humor (the new slick, sick Madison Avenue slapstick); teenolatry (our culture hero being Huck Finn remodeled by Charles Addams); the rise of Levelese English (GULF STARTS WONDERFUL); the All- American Boy-Man (Ike clinched it with ""Dick, you're my boy""); mail-order cataloguia (anti-Walden enticements, crying Complicate! Complicate!). He defends liberated horror-of-the-kitchen womanhood, documents what's wrong with the literary Bedroom Boys (Lolita to Peyton Place), what's right with Wind in the Willows; he opts for good old fashioned basic education, admires Stendhal's future-ranging character, offers epigrams (""the only reason for being young is to outgrow it""). Stylish, satisfying variations on all sorts of marginalia; delightful, diverting stuff.

Publisher: World