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Entertaining and invigorating essays by one of our most challenging critics of literature and culture. Academic critics normally swim in ``schools of thought,'' a pleasant phrase that often masks abject groupthink. Fiedler—a poet, novelist, essayist, and professor of literature at SUNY Buffalo—swims alone. Indeed, he identifies with people who are abnormal. In this book, his 25th, he continues to explore ideas spun off of Freaks (1978), his study of sideshow performers. Such people embody for us, he argues, not only the primordial fear of that which is abnormal and alien, but also (and more deeply) our secret recognition of what is monstrous and freakish in ourselves. Hence the immense popularity of The Elephant Man. In this spirit Fiedler examines the ethics of organ transplants, the culturally defined images of doctors and nurses, the relationship between literature and child abuse, and the cultural meanings of New Age spirituality, impotence, and deformity. Fiedler has a special knack for demystifying the imagery of popular culture. Commenting on Coming Home, Jane Fonda's hit movie about a disabled Vietnam veteran, he brushes aside its veneer of sanctimonious politics to suggest less attractive reasons for its popularity: What moved audiences, especially women, ``were certain genuinely mythic elements, long familiar in women's literature, and quite unrelated to leftist politics. First is the fantasy of making it with a cripple: a variant of the Beauty and the Beast archetype . . . The second is a variant of the Cinderella archetype (classically formulated in Jane Eyre . . . ) in which the heroine gets the prince only after he is maimed.'' Fiedler is famous for his curmudgeonly viewpoints, and this collection will not disappoint his readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-56792-003-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

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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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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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