The Case Against Harold Bloom
I must say I’m always impressed by Harold Bloom’s erudition, his passion for poetry, his flawless memory of lines from Homer (and earlier) right down to Hart Crane and Wallace Stephens.
His new and last book is weighty (650 pages). It carries a title both hopeful and foreboding: Take Arms Against A Sea of Troubles.
The enemy is named as well as grounds for hope:The Power of the Reader’s mind over a Universe of Death.
But an hour or two into my reading, I found it hard to still believe in “The Power of the Reader’s Mind.”
I was becoming powerless.
I was bothered by an increasingly nagging question:
Where is the line between magnificent, matchless erudition . . . and irritating bombast?
Perhaps I should attribute my sense of bombast to fatigue.
There’s just too much here!
(Or perhaps I’m just not patient enough.)
Every page has quotes that easily crowd out Bloom’s commentary.
The cumulative effect (for me) is not a sense that I’m gaining power over death.
It’s the sense that my mind is being beaten to death — first by an excess of difficult verse, and second, by an excess of rapid, non-stop comparison.
Like a clumsy bartender who overwhelms you with choices (there are craft beers old and new, foreign and domestic, bitter and sweet, by glass and by pitcher) — much more is happening here than the mind can take in.
I’m very happy, more than happy, to hope that poetry has leverage against death.
On a small scale I see how this works. Poetry can lift us over adversity.
But 600 pages of heavy poetry and tiresome comment is not uplifting. It’s dead weight.
What Promise in this Title!
I feel a rush of excitement!
I’m more than happy to buy. I’ve relied over the years on the impressive erudition of Professor Bloom; and I have a native faith in poetry.
But I’m sorry! Here he’s like a professor who assigns a 300 page paper responding to 300 hours of lectures.