Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyFiedler ( What Was Literature? ) is as fresh and iconoclastic as ever in these 12 essays and lectures culled from the last two decades. One of the best pieces exposes anti-Semitism in Thomas Wolfe, T. S. Eliot, Hemingway and Fitzgerald, then shows how stereotypes found in Chaucer, Shakespeare and Grimm reinforce anti-Jewish prejudices. Claiming that archetypal heroes of gentile literature, from Jesus to Galahad, ``have been portrayed as birthright Jews,'' the eminent critic intriguingly argues that Perceval, knight of the Holy Grail legend, is Jewish, and analyzes Leopold Bloom of Joyce's Ulysses as a self-deprecating Irish Jew. He takes to task culturally assimilated Jewish-American writers like Henry Roth and Nathaniel West, and calls Norman Mailer's novel of Egypt, Ancient Evenings, ``a deliberate inversion of the myth of the exodus.'' Fielder also wrestles with his own Jewish identity, meditates on the Holocaust and Job, and critiques Malamud, Singer and Styron in this gutsy, exciting, freewheeling collection. (May)
Library Journal - Library JournalThe author, now Samuel L. Clemens Professor of English at SUNY Buffalo, has been an iconoclast and cultural critic during his long career. Although he broke with the New York intellectual movement in the late 1970s, the influence of Jewish culture continued to concern him. This work of 12 essays, all previously published during the past 20 years, reflects this preoccupation. Through analysis of authors' works--ranging from early writings, Chaucer, and Shakespeare to James Joyce, Bernard Malamud, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and William Styron--Fiedler unravels his thread of the uneasy crosshatching of Judaism and Christianity in literature from its inception. Two essays--``A Meditation on the Book of Job'' and ``Why Is the Holy Grail Knight Jewish?''--are illustrative of this symbiotic relationship. His treatment of anti-Semitism is particularly insightful, especially in the final essay, ``In Every Generation: A Meditation on the Two Holocausts.'' Disturbing, provocative, and brilliant, these essays are a further acclamation of his scholarship. Recommended for academic libraries and Jewish literature collections.-- Mary Ellen Beck, Troy P.L., N.Y.
BooknewsLiterary and cultural critic Fiedler here assembles 12 of his most penetrating essays written over the past decade on subjects that range from discussions of contemporary Jewish-American authors such as Malamud, Roth and Mailer, to Bloom as Jew in Ulysses, to in-depth considerations of Grail literature and Book of Job, to highly personal meditations on anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and Jewish and American cultural history. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
- Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
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