Summer 1952 • Vol. XIV No. 3 NonfictionJuly 1, 1952 |

Italian Pilgrimage: The Discovery of America

For shipboard reading en route to Italy, I took along with me The Marble Faun. It was a toss-up between that and Innocents Abroad. There seemed no use in trying to kid myself—no American just goes to Italy; he makes willy-nilly a literary journey, and his only choice is between melodrama and comedy. Hawthorne or Mark Twain? You pay your money and you take your choice—if it is a choice; for after all, each writer confesses, according to his own conventions, the same meanings of the voyage: a Pilgrimage to the shrines of an idea of Man (or more accurately, I suppose, to the visible forms of a culture in which that idea is entombed) and a Descent into Hell. Moreover, both books agree in telling us, what we might have guessed anyhow, that the Descent into Hell is for us the real pleasure of the venture, while the Pilgrimage threatens always to become a bore. Even the distinction between comedy and melodrama is not final. With Hawthorne's romance of terror clutched firmly in hand

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Leslie A. Fiedler (1917-2003) was an influential American literary critic. Well known for Love and Death in the American Novel (1960), Fiedler penned many other works and was also a teacher. He was heavily interested in mythology and advocated genre fiction.

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