FIEDLER ON THE ROOF

ESSAYS ON LITERATURE AND JEWISH IDENTITY

Elegiac reevaluation by Fiedler, now 70-plus years old, of what it means to be a ``terminal'' Jew, a nonbeliever at the close of a 4,000-year line of Jewish forebears, and how that colors the essays on Jewish-American (Isaac Bashevis Singer) and American-Jewish (Bellow, Malamud, Mailer) authors he's been writing for the past ten years. This is not the firebreathing Fiedler of Love and Death in the American Novel and No! in Thunder, but he does have some fresh ideas in the 12 essays, which appeared originally in journals ranging from Psychology Today to Journal of Modern Literature. All are fairly subjective, tying into his Jewish background, and one—''In Every Generation: A Meditation on Two Holocausts''—is his most intimate writing since 1970's Being Busted. All his European relatives died in the Holocaust. Fiedler himself has eight children, not one of whom is married to a Jew or thinks of himself as Jewish, and his grandchildren have even less idea of their Jewish background—all of which Fiedler views as a ``Silent Holocaust.'' Forty years ago he was the enfant terrible of American criticism, but then, he says, he allowed gentiles—playing up to their post-Holocaust feelings—to give him academic posts that gradually tamed his fire. ``I have shamelessly played the role in which I have been cast, becoming a literary Fiedler on the roof of academe.'' He takes credit for boosting the postwar Jewish literary Mafia (Bellow, Roth, Malamud), now thinks it about burned out and he no longer reads their books. His most brilliant pages speak of Leopold Bloom, the first warm, dark, nonthreatening Jew in Western literature: ``I...had myself to become Bloom before I could understand Ulysses.'' He also has new ideas about the Book of Job, and goes on to show how the Grail Knight, Galahad, fathered by Lancelot with a Jewess, was Jewish, and how the legend itself descends from Joseph of Arimathea, who ran off with Christ's cup after the Last Supper. Passages of academese balanced by open-heart surgery.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-87923-859-3

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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