An American Dreamer: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Fiction of Norman Mailer by Andrew Gordon, and: Acts of Regeneration: Allegory and Archetype in the Works of Norman Mailer by Robert J. Begiebing (review)
- Studies in American Fiction
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 10, Number 1, Spring 1982
- pp. 121-124
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- Additional Information
Studies in American Fiction121 words are signs capable of pointing toward realities which transcend those signs" (p. 38). Schaub then discusses allusions to film, Jung, Weber, myth, mathematics—all flirting with continuity and unity as Schaub teases out their significance. He also notes opposing conceptions of history, the cyclical and the linear, the first described by Eliade, the second espoused by Pavlov. All appear in Gravity's Rainbow but, as with all else, no perspective receives complete endorsement. Even Enzian's attempts to complete a cycle by firing the 00001 rocket, though desirable, may be doomed to failure. Schaub's two final chapters are perhaps his most original. In "Reading Pynchon" he discusses the role of the reader in Pynchon's fiction: like Pynchon's characters we are on the interface of fact and meaning, for "Pynchon's unresolved plots frustrate the attempt to distill meaning from them" (p. 103). Pynchon's form thus reflects his content, as when Slothrop's dispersal at the end of Gravity's Rainbow is underscored by the fragmentation of the text. And both form and content disconcert, wrench by contradiction, as when a personified Poisson distribution sifts events, the statement asserting randomness while the personification intimates control. Schaub goes on to demonstrate the increasing range of Pynchon's style and the implications of modulating among first, second, and third person, and the implications of the present tense. In his final chapter, "Pynchon's Company," Schaub finds contexts for Pynchon's fiction . He compares Pynchon with contemporaries who similarly pretend not to be serious but very much are, who comment on society through fantasy (and for whom Pynchon has often written book blurbs): Farina, Beal, Robbins, Matthiessen, Reed, Burroughs. Then Schaub examines a related American tradition, including Hawthorne and Melville, who in many ways oppose "the more public, commercial drives of the culture" (p. 147), and who, like Pynchon, feel ambiguously drawn to the dark underside of American culture. Finally Schaub distinguishes Pynchon from contemporaries who stress self-referentiality, such as the later Barth, for whom the funhouse of the mind is far more important than society and politics. For Pynchon, however, both inner and outer realms are important and connected; he "acknowledges the paradoxes of language but retains the social power of the naturalistic novel" (p. 151) . Pynchon may paradoxically celebrate the communal by remaining private, "but this is only a seeming paradox, for publicity is not community and exchanges being known well for being well known" (p. 152). Schaub concludes by inviting us to "a continuity of song that never resolves" (p. 152). We could do worse than join him. Wheaton CollegeBeverly Lyon Clark Gordon, Andrew. An American Dreamer: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Fiction of Norman Mailer. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, 1980. 234 pp. Cloth: $18.00. Begiebing, Robert J. Acts of Regeneration: Allegory and Archetype in the WorL· of Norman Mailer. Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press, 1980. 209 pp. Cloth: $20.00. Those of you who saw my hortatory article in the SAF special number on "New Approaches to American Fiction" (Autumn, 1981) may remember my claim that all criticism of An American Dream has suffered from the failure to realize that Norman Mailer obscured the major structural pattern in the novel as he revised the Esquire serialization 122Reviews for book publication by Dial. Before supporting that claim with illustrations from Andrew Gordon's and Robert J. Begiebing's chapters on An American Dream, I will do my duty as reviewer and offer a brief account of their books. (You may want to know that Gordon's was published in August, 1980 and that Begiebing's, also dated 1980, actually appeared in January, 1981.) Gordon's An American Dreamer is, as the subtitle promises, a psychoanalytic study of Mailer's fiction (not of his other writings), a study based on the theories of Freud and post-Freudians (such as Karl Abraham, Otto Fenichel, Melanie Klein, and Erik Erikson) as they concern "the 'anal stage' of human development" (p. 23). Acknowledging that "Mailer, at least since 1954, has been more Reichian than Freudian in his psychoanalytic beliefs" (p. 21), Gordon insists that Freudian theories are valid for everyone, even for a...