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.