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118Reviews importance. The Hemingway chapter is built around a provocative comparison of the growth of the Hemingway hero and Hemingway's own identity to Carlyle's model in Sartor Resartus, although Asselineau greatly overestimates Hemingway's understanding of the nature of love. The Dreiser chapter usefully links Dreiser's mysticism with his admiration for the Transcendentalists and directs notice to his little-known experiments in free verse. The essay on Whitman's humor takes that subject one or two steps further than Richard Chase. Another Whitman chapter, the book's closest approximation to an intensive scholarly article, appraises his mixed feelings toward Taine's theory of literary history. And the first essay in the collection, on grass as cosmic symbol, is suggestive albeit underdeveloped . Were it not for Asselineau's prior reputation, this book would not have been published . American literary studies will not be much affected by its appearance. But now that the book exists, it is definitely worth at least brief inspection by scholars; and it may be of some help also to students seeking an introduction to Whitman as Transcendentalist poet or poet of America, as well as to the other subjects noted above, for Asselineau's critical prose is always eminently readable, if not always profound. Oberlin CollegeLawrence Buell Hicks, Jack. In the Singer's Temple: Prose Fictions of Barthelme, Gaines, Brautigan, Piercy, Kesey, and Kosinski. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1981. 293 pp. Cloth: $18.50. Jack Hicks is that style of critic who sees social movements as structuring literary art. Fiction, Hicks believes, is a response to the times, and therefore the disruptive pressures of the American 1960s and 1970s have created a uniquely innovative literature. Both social and artistic traditions were unsettled during these decades, and so Hicks now sees four different literatures as having resulted: American fiction has fractionated into its primary ingredients, and further . . . four distinct elements can be crystallized: metafiction, the fiction of postmodern consciousness, as seen in Donald Barthelme's work; recent Afro-American prose, our most resonant folk stories in human memory, as represented in Ernest Gaines's writing; the dreaming tales of Richard Brautigan, Marge Piercy, and Ken Kesey, countercultural fables that envision alternatives to mainstream American life; and finally, the contemporary meditations on public power and private terrors, as witnessed in Jerzy Kosinski's keloid romances (p. 269). Aesthetic innovators, makers of a new Black tradition, the sensibility of the counterculture (including the women's movement), and the modern romance of terror and control: these were indeed the highpoints of the Sixties and Seventies, and Hicks has done well to show how each helped create a new fiction. Since Ihab Hassan's Radical Innocence (1961), readers have been waiting for a perceptive critic to synthesize the fiction of our age, and Jack Hicks comes as close as anyone to doing that in In the Singer's Temple. Barthelme, Gaines, Brautigan, Piercy, Kesey, and Kosinski are indeed important figures. But in this age whose characteristic it has been to shun major figures and disregard the masterpiece, there are dozens of other noteworthy writers as well, and it is Hicks' Studies in American Fiction119 genius to have virtually covered them all as he sets the stage for his longer individual analyses. Hence, to explain Barthelme, Hicks tells us about the fiction of Gass, Sukenick, and Coover; Ishmael Reed, Clarence Major, and Imamu Amiri Baraka figure in the placing of Ernest Gaines; Vonnegut is, of course, the Dutch uncle of Brautigan, just as Kerouac prefigures Kesey; and Jerzy Kosinski's fictions can hardly be discussed without an awareness of Mailer and Burroughs. One gets a good composite picture of contemporary American fiction from this broadly synthetic book. "Metafictionists tend to regard everything about them as man-created, as fiction" (p. 22), hence the peculiar world-vision of Donald Barthelme, whose characters are trapped in language as often as they, or their narrator, use it. There is, however, a way out (Barthelme h an American, after all): "To live freely, as a work of art or as a man, one must create himself constantly" (p. 36), and Barthelme's later fictions do this eminently well. Black writers are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-5806
Print ISSN
0091-8083
Pages
pp. 118-119
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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