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Analysis of Meyer Levin's 'Fanatic': A 'Basic Problem' Badly Presented

THE FANATIC, by Meyer Levin. Simon and Schuster, 478 pp. $5.95.

By J. MICHAEL Crichton

In his introduction to The Fanatic, Meyer Levin explains carefully that this is not a book about real people, as Compulsion was. Instead, he announces, this novel is concerned with "the consuming of human identity that has so racked our generation; the basic problem for the artist . . . of retaining his freedom of expression; the question of whether our society . . . is creating conditions that drive sensitive persons to feel that life is not worth living."

Unfortunately, The Fanatic considers none of these things. It never rises above a case study, the personal history of Maury Finklestein, a pushed and pushy young man trying to sell a play. The trials of Levin's hero lack a broader meaning, a significance beyond themselves. And, unforgivably, the experiences are uninteresting.

The actual themes that emerge from the book--the blatant commercialism of Broadway, the struggles of the unknown author--are not new. They are not freshly handled. And the hero, finally, is paranoiac. It is difficult to be sympathetic toward his talent when his naivete, his obnoxiousness, and his persecution complex stand out so strikingly. In sum, The Fanatic is a novel best described as poorly conceived, repetitive, and over-whelmingly dull.

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