THE RETURN OF THE VANISHING AMERICAN by Leslie Fiedler

THE RETURN OF THE VANISHING AMERICAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Between a prefatory ""thanks to the Blackfoot tribe who adopted me"" and a concluding initiation to the unknown--exemplified by the Indian--via drugs, Fiedler ranges over the West, first as the madness of the Old World (mythically either promised land or forbidden garden), later, with confrontation as source of four archetypal American fables (love in the woods, the white woman with a tomahawk, the good companions in the wilderness, the runaway male), finally as true madness in current fiction (Thomas Berger almost, Leonard Cohen, Ken Kesey especially); the return of is also a return to, abstracted, generalized, transcended. Psychosocial insights invest Fiedler's account of the transmutations of the Pocahontas, Natty Bumpo and Rip Van Winkle legends with a validity indePendent of his central theme. The turning point in the analysis comes with Hemingway and Nathanael West--""a kind of anti-Western Western is being written here, which begins by assuming the cliches and stereotypes of all the popular books which precede... and aims not at redeeming but at exploiting them..."" But this is a Pop out--it will not be farce (The SotWeed Factor) or satire (Little Big Man) that will save the West(ern) but the sentimentality that prefers Indian madness to White reason. Without buying Fiedler's ticket, the prospectus is highly provocative

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1967
Publisher: Stein & Day