Harold Bloom: How to Read and Why, The Best Poems, The Western Canon, Novels to Read, Genius (2003) #buildempire
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Read Harold Bloom’s books: https://amzn.to/3W7jsuI
Harold Bloom (July 11, 1930 – October 14, 2019) was an American literary critic and the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. In 2017, Bloom was described as “probably the most famous literary critic in the English-speaking world.” Following the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom wrote more than 50 books, including over 40 books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and a novel. During his lifetime, he edited hundreds of anthologies concerning numerous literary and philosophical figures for the Chelsea House publishing firm. Bloom’s books have been translated into more than 40 languages. Bloom was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1995.
Bloom was a defender of the traditional Western canon at a time when literary departments were focusing on what he derided as the “school of resentment” (multiculturalists, feminists, Marxists, and others). He was educated at Yale University, the University of Cambridge, and Cornell University.
Concerning British writers: “Geoffrey Hill is the strongest British poet now active”, and “no other contemporary British novelist seems to me to be of Iris Murdoch’s eminence”. After Murdoch died, Bloom expressed admiration for novelists such as Peter Ackroyd, Will Self, John Banville, and A. S. Byatt.
In Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds (2003), he named the Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize winner José Saramago as “the most gifted novelist alive in the world today”, and as “one of the last titans of an expiring literary genre”.
Of American novelists, he declared in 2003 that “there are four living American novelists I know of who are still at work and who deserve our praise”. He claimed that “they write the Style of our Age, each has composed canonical works,” and he identified them as Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, and Don DeLillo. He named their strongest works as, respectively, Gravity’s Rainbow, The Crying of Lot 49 and Mason & Dixon; American Pastoral and Sabbath’s Theater; Blood Meridian; and Underworld. He added to this estimate the work of John Crowley, with special interest in his Aegypt Sequence and novel Little, Big saying that “only a handful of living writers in English can equal him as a stylist, and most of them are poets … only Philip Roth consistently writes on Crowley’s level”. Shortly before his death, he expressed admiration for the works of Joshua Cohen, William Giraldi and Nell Freudenberger.
In Kabbalah and Criticism (1975), Bloom identified Robert Penn Warren, James Merrill, John Ashbery, and Elizabeth Bishop as the most important living American poets. By the 1990s, he regularly named A. R. Ammons along with Ashbery and Merrill, and he later identified Henri Cole as the crucial American poet of the generation following those three. He expressed great admiration for the Canadian poets Anne Carson, particularly her verse novel Autobiography of Red, and A. F. Moritz, whom Bloom called “a true poet.” Bloom also listed Jay Wright as one of only a handful of major living poets and the best living American poet after Ashbery’s death.
In the early 21st century, Bloom often found himself at the center of literary controversy after criticizing popular writers such as Adrienne Rich, Maya Angelou, and David Foster Wallace. In the pages of The Paris Review, he criticized the populist-leaning poetry slam, saying: “It is the death of art.” When Doris Lessing was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he bemoaned the “pure political correctness” of the award to an author of “fourth-rate science fiction,” although he conceded his appreciation of Lessing’s earlier work.
After a personal crisis during the late 1960s, Bloom became deeply interested in Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sigmund Freud, and the ancient mystic traditions of Gnosticism, Kabbalah, and Hermeticism. In a 2003 interview with Bloom, Michael Pakenham, the book editor for The Baltimore Sun, posited that Bloom had long referred to himself as a “Jewish Gnostic”. Bloom explained: “I am using Gnostic in a very broad way. I am nothing if not Jewish… I really am a product of Yiddish culture. But I can’t understand a Yahweh, or a God, who could be all-powerful and all knowing and would allow the Nazi death camps and schizophrenia.” Influenced by his reading, he began a series of books that focused on the way in which poets struggled to create their own individual poetic visions without being overcome by the influence of the previous poets who inspired them to write.