Cover image for Too good to be true : the life and work of Leslie Fiedler
Too good to be true : the life and work of Leslie Fiedler
Winchell, Mark Royden, 1948-
Publication Information:
Columbia : University of Missouri Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xi, 366 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3556.I34 Z944 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS3556.I34 Z944 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3556.I34 Z944 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room-Buffalo Collection Non-Circ

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"Too Good to Be True" is a comprehensive account of Leslie Fiedler's life and work. Born in 1917, Fiedler has, in a sense, had four overlapping careers. He first came to prominence as one of the premier Jewish intellectuals of the postwar era--writing on literature, culture, and politics in such magazines as Partisan Review and Commentary . Shortly thereafter, he helped lead the attack that myth criticism was mounting on the hegemony of the New Criticism. If he had stopped writing entirely at that point, Fiedler would still be remembered as an important cultural critic of the fifties. With his brash, groundbreaking magnum opus , Love and Death in the American Novel , Fiedler next established himself as a revolutionary interpreter of our native literary tradition. Subsequent critics of American literature have been compelled to adopt or attack his positions because to ignore them has been impossible. Finally, Fiedler was one of the first critics to proclaim the death of modernism and to suggest some of the directions that literature might take in its aftermath. The Oxford English Dictionary credits him with being the first individual to apply the term postmodernism to literature. This alone caused much enmity among those who had built their careers on the assumption that modernism would last forever. To many academics, Fiedler's lack of solemnity and his wild flights of imagination have made him appear amateurish. How could anyone who enjoys himself that much possibly be taken seriously? One of the favorite critics of young people and non-English majors, Fiedler has seemed to enjoy remaining disreputable--even as some of his once-controversial views have been made a part of standard or traditional scholarship. Like Huck Finn, returned to the raft from the fog, he often seems "too good to be true." Mark Royden Winchell has made his subject come alive in a highly intelligent and critical way. A combination of biography, critical analysis, and cultural history, " Too Good to Be True" will be of great interest to scholars and students of American literature, twentieth-century literary criticism, and popular culture.

Author Notes

Mark Royden Winchell is Professor of English and Director of the Great Works of Western Civilization program at Clemson University. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Where No Flag Flies: Donald Davidson and the Southern Resistance (University of Missouri Press).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Winchell (Clemson Univ.) contends that--thanks in part to the academic establishment--Fiedler has never received the recognition he deserves, despite a career of university teaching and voluminous publications on a wide range of literary concerns. Winchell means this detailed account to correct that oversight and to justify reappraisal of Fiedler's standing in the ranks of modern literary figures. In good measure he succeeds, demonstrating that though none of Fiedler's writings achieved the acclaim garnered by the writing of some of his contemporaries (e.g., Alfred Kazin's On Native Ground, 1942, and Irving Howe's World of Our Fathers, CH, May'76), he left his mark on reading and interpretation of American literature. Winchell divides the book evenly between biographical data and exposition of Fiedler's literary concepts and theories. Many readers may find the biographical account excessive, but the analysis of Fiedler's major literary ideas, including myth criticism and the significance of homoerotic relationships in American classics, is clear and incisive. Winchell points out that Fiedler was a pioneer in acknowledging the special role played by minority writers in the making of a national literature and that Fiedler's fiction makes a worthy contribution to the representation of the "other" in modern literature. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. M. Butovsky emeritus, Concordia University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Chapter 1 Newark Jewp. 3
Chapter 2 All the Irvings Didp. 19
Chapter 3 Those Beautiful Chinese Nightsp. 35
Chapter 4 Too Good to Be Truep. 49
Chapter 5 Enfant Terriblep. 63
Chapter 6 A Newer Criticismp. 78
Chapter 7 Discovering Americap. 94
Chapter 8 Eliezar Ben Leahp. 119
Chapter 9 Heavy Runnerp. 132
Chapter 10 From Princeton to Athensp. 145
Chapter 11 American Gothicp. 160
Chapter 12 East Toward Homep. 175
Chapter 13 True Westp. 192
Chapter 14 Innocence Reclaimedp. 208
Chapter 15 Sacred and Profanep. 233
Chapter 16 Till the Tree Diep. 249
Chapter 17 Eleanor Mooseheartp. 266
Chapter 18 Mutants New and Oldp. 281
Chapter 19 For Sam and Hattiep. 296
Chapter 20 Moses in Aspenp. 312
Chapter 21 The Sorcerer's Apprenticep. 328
Bibliographyp. 343
Indexp. 351