TYRANNY OF THE NORMAL: Essays on Bioethics, Theology & Myth by Leslie Fiedler (David Godine: $22.95, 192 pp.). "Freaks: Myths and Images of the Secret Self" is Leslie Fiedler's best-known book, and this volume can be regarded as a footnote to that 1978 work. Fiedler, a literature professor in Buffalo, N.Y., covers little new ground here and demonstrates a bit too much self-regard, but those characteristics are perhaps to be expected, for "Tyranny of the Normal" evolved largely from the speeches he gave (often before medical organizations) following his "Freaks"-induced notoriety.
Fiedler has his moments, though, and they cluster around his lifelong theme--that fear of the odd, the strange, the disabled, the seemingly unnatural, is a psychological defense mechanism. One reads fiction and poetry, Fiedler writes, to recognize the hypocrisy inherent in that fear; one might add that people read Fiedler for the same reason.