Fm Nobodynby Chilton Williamson, Jr.n”Literature, strictly consider’d, has never recognized the people, and whatevernmay be said, does not today. Speaking generally, the tendencies of literature, asnhitherto pursued, have been to make most critical and querulous men.”n—Walt WhitmannFiedler on the Roof: Essays onnLiterature and Jewish Identitynby Leslie FiedlernBoston: David R. Godine,nPublishers, Inc.; 161 pp., $19.95nIn a prepublication interview, LeslienFiedler remarked that he had wantednfor years to use the title he has given tonhis latest book. In Fiedler on the Roof,nhowever, the authorial persona resemblesnneither that of the effervescentnLev Teitlebaum of the Broadway stage,nnor of the genially witty Fiedler ofnmany previous books {Love and Deathnin the American Novel, What WasnLiterature?, etc.). This unfamiliarnFiedler is not so much a new Fiedlern(the essays comprising the present volumenwere written between 1970 andn1989) as it is an unexpected one,nalthough readers who have followednthe critic’s work closely over the pastnhalf-century (I have not read To thenGentiles, published in 1973) will likelynbe in some way prepared for what isnanyway another Fielder — angry, atntimes spiteful, intending insult, andntormented always by a strain ot culturalnconfusion that John Murray Cuddihynso well explained in The Ordeal ofnCivility, a sociological work of significancenpublished sixteen years ago.nAs a young professor of English atnthe state university at Missoula, Montana,nLeslie Fiedler wrote to T.S. Eliotnin London to demand from the poetnan explanation of the “obsessive hostility”ntoward Jews evinced in his work;nwhen Eliot replied by saying, in part,nthat some of his best friends weren”jews,” Fiedler flung the letter acrossnthe room. Today, he denounces “thenpathological hatred of Jews endemic innWestern culture, pre-Christian, Christian,nor post-Christian,” and insists thatnChilton Williamson, Jr. is seniorneditor for books at Chronicles.n30/CHRONICLESn^fmm MnE^wli^^^n”it is hard for me to be at ease in thenUnited States, as long as The Merchantnof Venice is played and replayednon stage and screen and television andnremains required reading in classes innEnglish.” (In What Was Literature?,npublished only seven years before henwrote the above lines, Fiedler attackednthe “censors” who prevented thenshowing of a film of The Merchant, asnwell as of Griffith’s Birth of a Nation.)nIt enrages him to recall how, as an”Jew-boy” attending public school innNewark, New Jersey, he was forced tonendure prayers offered to “their Lord”n— an indignity which he seeks now tonrepay by employing the word “Gen­nnntile” only when absolutely necessary tonremind us that he is indeed familiarnwith the English equivalent oigoy andngoyish with which he lards his pages.nHe admits to “doubts about whethernassimilation into the traditional HighnCulture of the West did not mean fornme — offspring of plebeian EasternnEuropean Jews — a kind of apostasy, anfalsification of my very identity,” andndeclares that Europe is suspect for himnfor its anti-Semitic culture and history,nwhile in America he remains a strangernin a strange land, forever an exile. Yetnhe adds, “I feel myself more hopelesslyna foreigner in Jerusalem and Tel Avivnand the Holy City of Safad than I do innRome or Bologna or Florence.” Beyondnthis, there is still another twist,nsince, “Even as in America I know Inam a Jew and doubt that I am annAmerican, in Zion … I know that Inam an American and doubt that I am anJew. Only in the land of Dante am Insure that I am both; a happy stranger innan amiable strange land, aware at everynmoment that I can and will return tonmy native land, where I will feel not atnease, as ill-befits a Jew, but at home;njust one more exile in the midst ofnother exiles.” When finally Fiedler—nafter admitting that, while consideringnhimself a Jew (though not a believingnone), he is more uncertain of whatnbeing a Jew actually means — confessesnto suffering from “a life-longnidentity crisis,” it is easy to agree withnhim that he has a problem.nThat problem being essentially personalnin nature, it is of itself no propernconcern to Fiedler’s readers, who willnbe more likely to notice the bearing itnhas on the world’s stock-in-trade:nnamely, his insistence upon then”mythic” validity of what he calls “popnliterature,” as opposed to “High Literature”nand particularly Modernism,nwhose aim he identifies as the reinterpretationnand general intellectualizationnof old and dying myths. Highn