Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves

By John Rodden | Go to book overview

22
Review of The Middle of the Journey, Kenyon Review
spring 1948

Leslie Fiedler

One of America’s most stimulating and provocative literary critics, Leslie Fiedler (1917—) is the author of An End to Innocence: Essays on Culture and Politics (1955), The Jew in the American Novel (1959), Waiting for the End (1964), and his essay collection Fiedler on the Roof (1991), among other nonaction books. His major work of criticism is Love and Death in the American Novel (1960; revised 1966), a provocative commentary on sexuality in American fiction that Trilling favorably reviewed in Mid-Century. Fiedler has also published three novels and three collections of short stories, along with editing volumes on Whitman, Bernard Malamud, and other American writers.

Fiedler is professor emeritus of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He writes often on Jewish issues. During the 1940s and ’50s, he was an occasional contributor to Partisan Review and identified closely with the circle of New York writers affiliated with the magazine. (“I stand somehow for PR and PR for me,” Fiedler wrote in a 1956 essay in Perspectives USA about the magazine.) Unlike most of Partisan Review writers, however, Fiedler became a vocal supporter of the New Left in the late 1960s.

Fiedler and Trilling admired each other from a distance: Fiedler commented in the same 1956 essay on Trilling’s “remarkable aura of respectability not granted to any of his colleagues”; Trilling envied Fiedler’s antiEstablishment brashness and confided in an early postwar notebook entry (published in Partisan Review in 1984) that Fiedler was one of two contemporaries (along with Mark Schorer) whose praise he most coveted.

Lionel Trilling’s extraordinary story, “The Other Margaret,” had achieved already a moving and credible embodiment of a view of culpability, and his novel had to encounter perhaps exaggerated expectancies. The Middle of the

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