Alex Patriquin

Marginalia & found poetry. Short fiction and other projects. Musings  on startups. Photos from NYC and travels.

pure ventriloquism

Crowing was his natural idiom. He was a master of hectoring overstatement. His first great essay, "Come Back to the Raft Ag'n, Huck Honey," published in Partisan Review in 1948, when Fiedler was 31, opened with a sentence that announced itself as a scandal: "It is perhaps to be expected that the Negro and the homosexual should become stock literary themes in a period when the exploration of responsibility and failure has become again a primary concern of our literature." The frank mention of race and sex was shocking in its day. But the real treat is the quasi-parodical prose. It ridicules its own high-mindedness. The first six words are pure ventriloquism—they echo the demurring perfected by older Jewish critics who feared they weren't mannerly enough to appropriate the "Anglo-American tradition." The drivel about "responsibility and failure" reeks of the ideological piety Fiedler was ready to explode.

from Remembering Leslie Fielder