Tyranny of the Normal

Leslie Fiedler, Author David R. Godine Publisher $22.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-56792-003-1
Combative, opinionated, sometimes belabored, these thought-provoking original essays confirm Fiedler's reputation as an intellectual maverick, an erudite critic, an irrepressible explorer of humanity's darkest impulses. Two pieces deal with images of ""dirty old men"" in Chaucer, Dickens, Nabokov, Mann, Shakespeare, Goethe, in plays, movies and dirty jokes--images that, in Fiedler's reckoning, crystallize an ancient, mythologically reinforced taboo against sexuality in the elderly. In another essay, he argues that almost all of us are subconsciously driven to search for ""a myth system which will permit the ritualized slaughter of some human beings,"" whether via abortion, infanticide, child abuse or capital punishment. Elsewhere, he lambastes the 1960s and '70s counterculture as a revolt against reason and establishment medicine. Fiedler often goes out on a limb, as when, citing Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau, he contends that our unconscious resentment of the medical profession, and fear of pain and death, cause most people to refuse to become organ-transplant donors, or when he likens teratacide, the killing of ""monstrously malformed"" neonates such as the Thalidomide babies of the 1960s, to the Nazis' extermination of dwarfs and other ""useless people."" (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 09/09/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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