Too Good to Be True: The Life and Work of Leslie Fiedler

By Mark Royden Winchell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
Sacred and Profane

IN THE MID -1960s, Leslie's old friend Sol Stein formed his own publishing company, Stein and Day (the “Day” being a pseudonym for Sol's wife); it would be Leslie's exclusive book publisher for more than a decade. Back to China, The Last Jew in America, the second edition of Love and Death in the American Novel, The Return of the Vanishing American, Nude Croquet, and Being Busted all appeared under the Stein and Day imprint. Then, in 1971, Sol Stein published The Collected Essays of Leslie Fiedler. At the very least, this title was misleading. Far from being a comprehensive edition of the several hundred essays Leslie had published up to that point, the two volumes represented only the criticism he wished to preserve. The first volume consisted simply of a reprinting of An End to Innocence and No! In Thunder. The second required Leslie to go back and rescue old magazine pieces from dusty periodical rooms and to decide what order, if any, was formed by these fugitive writings.

As might be expected, one cluster of essays concerns “Jewish writers, chiefly but not exclusively Americans, as well as reflections on the plight of such writers when they abandon the traditional tongues of their people, holy or secular, to address the Gentile world in the language of the Gentiles” (CE, 2:xi). Appropriately, this section of the Collected Essays is called “To the Gentiles.” 1. In what would prove to be a premature statement, Fiedler writes, “[T]his section must be understood as valedictory, my farewell to a subject which has concerned me for a long time, but which seems to me at the moment exhausted, both in terms of my own interests and that of the young audiences who no longer find in Jewish experience viable images of their own character and fate” (CE, 2:xi). Even had he stopped writing on Jewish topics at this point (which he did

____________________
1.
The following year, Stein and Day published this and the other two sections of volume two as separate paperback books.

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