The Dartmouth Observer
Monday, August 05, 2002
Out of Bloom
Some time ago, when I delved into the imbroglio that is the Culture Wars, I decided I would pick a few choice critics and follow their ideas for a while to see where they led. I continue to refine my list of critics even today. Recent additions to my list are Thomas Sowell and Jacques Barzun. Recent subtractions are Roger Kimball, Hilton Kramer, and their fellow polemicists at the New Criterion, a publication that should stick to commenting on the arts and literature (which it does very well) and cease publishing silly articles with an obvious political bent, such as this one on London's socialist mayor.
Having read the following piece by the very estimable Joseph Epstein (an exceptional and unpolemical essayist), I have decided - not without some difficulty - to give the boot to Harold Bloom, whom some of you may know was a firm favorite of mine for some time (Laura, you must be surprised!). While I continue to admire his tremendous love for books - an enthusiasm more people could afford to have - his criticism no longer appeals to me. I foolishly bought Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human thinking that it would complement English 24 nicely. I was wrong: it's been sitting on the shelf ever since I tried to read his chapter on Twelfth Night. The Western Canon is slightly better; its elegiac power is overwhelming at times. But I will not bring myself to buy How to Read and Why, let alone his critical trilogy (The Anxiety of Influence, A Map of Misreading, and Kabbalah and Criticism). Bloom's prose style, which I've been skeptical of for a long time, has begun to disintegrate in light of Sowell, Barzun, and Orwell. His ideas fall short of Frank Kermode's. And his lack of moderation, unfortunately, is something an aspiring historian and cultural critic such as myself can longer draw sustenance from.
So thanks for the memories, Harold, and best wishes.