THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF LESLIE FIEDLER by Leslie Fiedler

THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF LESLIE FIEDLER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fiedler as he would be read, each volume -- the first comprising An End to Innocence and No! In Thunder, the second previously uncollected essays -- and each section bearing an introductory affirmation of intent/rumble of discontent. Discontent chiefly at being misinterpreted by those of Right, Left and Center with an ""outworn pretense to innocence""; in the context of ""a new innocence"" (had he burned the bridges?), he insists again on the actualities of the Rosenbergs, hoping that current revolutionaries will not ""die for nothing."" So, too, in the second volume, he goes back to the ""Montana"" of An End to Innocence and finds the bars on Woody Street, ""the true mythic center of Missoula,"" boarded up: ""God damn it, here or nowhere is America."" The phrase recurs in the devastating interview with Hemingway just before his death, and in one way or another the search for American authenticity is Fiedler's goad. Much of this -- particulars as well as perspective -- is familiar from the trilogy that began with Love and Death in the American Novel; newly consolidated are Fiedler's several articles on Jewish identity, real and transcendent; and besides some variously argumentative and polemical pieces (including the post-bust plea for ""Academic Irresponsibility,"" i.e. exercising the unpopular as well as the respectable freedoms), there are such thematic summations as, taken conjointly, the early (1955) dismantling of comic book critics, the 1964 ""Death of Avant-Garde Literature,"" and the 1970 essay From which the section takes its name, ""Cross the Border--Close the Gap,"" where the literary use of popular genres (the western, science fiction, pornography) is seen as the route to a new populism. Concomitantly, the engagement with myth will result in Vision supplanting Work as the good -- though how one can have e.g. Little Big Man or The Sot-Weed Factor without work Fiedler does not tell us; neither does he address himself to the (in)accessibility of another of his exemplars, Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers. Which is to say that he is, as always, vulnerable. But he professes not to want it otherwise and you will have to take him on his terms: the contents of this set will not be available in hard-cover elsewhere, and the importance of his seminal essays, at the very least, entitles him to continued attention.

Pub Date: July 29th, 1971
Publisher: Stein & Day