Leslie Fiedler we have always with us. For roughly two decades now he has been intellectually stagnant and muddled, prolifically redundant, obsessed with shoring up his ever more dubious fame, pitching one-liners to an empty house. It would be a kindness if he were to declare a moratorium on self-promotion, but nothing appears less likely. Indeed, in his twenty-second and most autobiographical book, What Was Literature?, he has made his most sustained effort yet to convince us that history is on his side.[1] Though the book leaves a quite opposite impression, there can be little hope that Fiedler will be deterred by the cold welcome it has already received. He is like a bag lady permanently camped on the doorstep of criticism, muttering imprecations at the insiders and keeping warm by waving enthusiastically to oblivious passers-by.

Part I of What Was...


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