The Literary Rebel

The Literary Rebel

The Literary Rebel

The Literary Rebel

Excerpt

KINGSLEY WIDMER'S BOOKS on Henry Miller and D. H. Lawrence, as well as his numerous articles whipping up controversy, have pointed toward his study of the literary rebel. This is 2 volume that performs a significant intellectual service, for it puts together many points never previously assembled, and it does so in a lively and challenging way.

Although himself an academician--he teaches at San Diego State College--Mr. Widmer is far from academic in his approach to the literary rebel, whom he sees as an important and even affirmative figure. "Rebels, indeed, offer something positive and useful: permanent defiance, without which life loses essential freedom and vitality. When the rebel negates the usual negatives, when he denies the stand compulsions and anxieties, he creates positively." Yet Mr. Widmer doesn't blindly idealize the rebel, as his last chapter ("The Limits of the Rebel") shows.

Mr. Widmer ranges across literatures to illuminate a wide variety of literary rebels: The Archpoet of Cologne, Henry David Thoreau, D. H. Lawrence, Diogenes, Feodor Dostoevsky, and others. He shows us that the rebel is no new phenomenon. If we have him with us today, the ancient world also had him, and so did the middle ages.

In one particularly fine section of his book, Mr. Widmer gives a highly valuable re-appraisal of three rebel works of the past: William Blake The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Herman Melville Bartleby, the Scrivener, and Tristan Corbière's Les Amours Jaunes. In other significant chapters, Mr. Widmer takes some more recent rebels, naming names, emphasizing their imperfections. He isn't afraid to tackle the highly regarded Albert Camus, whose essays such as those collected in The Rebel he downgrades (though he likes at least one Camus book--his novel The Stranger . . .

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