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Genius : a mosaic of one hundred exemplary…
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Genius : a mosaic of one hundred exemplary creative minds (2002)

by Harold Bloom

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Impressive encyclopedia survey of some 100 writers Bloom considers to have some aspect of genius. Organization is haphazard and arbitrary, but Bloom admits as much, listing them in an unusual Gnostic way.

Alternately witty and pompous in equal measure, but no doubt extremely informative.

Of particular note is that this is the last book in my 2011 reading challenge. Fitting. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
I wonder whether any reader can begin to review Harold Bloom’s Genius without first heaving a sigh. This sigh has a multiplicity of meanings. What unfortunately strikes the reader first as he peruses these one hundred capsule biographies of literary luminaries, these one hundred assessments of “the work in the life,” as he calls it, are Bloom’s many defects as a guide. He stubbornly insists on structuring (pretending to structure?) his tour on the sefirot of the kabbalah, to no discernible end. Each grouping of artists (or “lustre,” in Bloom’s bizarre, quasi-Emersonian lingo) either feels arbitrary or could have been motivated without the kabbalistic tomfoolery—e.g., do we really need to understand the first thing about the sefirot Tiferet in order to broadly appreciate the logic of a lustre that includes Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Valery, Hugo, and Nerval, all French writers of the 19th century? I think not. You walk away from Genius knowing as little about the kabbalah as you knew going in, and caring less.

Also, Bloom cannot let pass a single, tedious opportunity, however tangential, to criticize Marxist or feminist literary theorists (the “school of resentment” he calls them—the irony, it burns). He can be counted on, without provocation, to disparage political correctness, “scientism,” T.S. Eliot, the current state of academia (in precipitous decline since 1967, apparently), and George W. Bush. His censure is so scattershot that you’re bound to agree with him on something—and still Bloom will aggravate you to no end with his hobby horses. He is the sort of critic who thinks it a pretty neat trick to introduce a passage of no particular beauty or import by observing that it must make crawl the skin of feminist critics—and then to move on without further comment. His work is done. You could call Bloom’s default mode of criticism the “school of spite.” He is, in short, a curmudgeon.

Now, in fairness, every reader, even Harold Bloom, is entitled to his or her idiosyncrasies—otherwise, we readers would have little to gain from talking to each other. What we’re not entitled to do, while demanding the attention of others, is to erect ideologies out of the bricks of our idiosyncrasies. Bloom does too much of this.

And yet… the sigh you heave upon finishing Genius has a multiplicity of meanings. Occasionally Bloom’s idiosyncrasies stay idiosyncrasies, and they humanize him and his analyses. He recounts dashing from one of Nabokov’s lectures when the master ventured his judgment that Gogol was a superior writer to Austen. (Who could have posed such a comparison?) Introducing Yeats, Bloom identifies himself as a skeptic regarding the occult, but goes on to admit that he avoids séances, because, “they upset me.” The inherent charm of this admission catches the reader completely off-guard. And then there is his failure of articulation when it comes time to explain his veneration for the demanding poetry of Hart Crane—this failure to articulate persists until we learn that a young Harold Bloom received a gift of a volume of Crane’s poetry from an older sister.

You sigh as you finish Genius because you want more of the criticism wherein Bloom is simply himself—neither a perpetuator of picayune academic spats, nor a lightweight critic of contemporary politics—but rather a prodigious, enthusiastic, and eccentric reader, like nothing so much as one of the standouts at a very good book club. And when he’s on, Bloom’s enthusiasm is catching—it’s impossible to read Genius without wishing to be better-read. Not only does Genius contain hundreds of book recommendations; it also projects an air of encouragement, an idea that great literature is not merely accessible to, but is the birthright of every person.

I hesitated, finally, to break ground on the hundredth biography (of Ralph Ellison), knowing that when I was through, the spell would be broken—I’d need something new to do on shiftless weekend afternoons. No, even worse: I read Genius over a period of two languorous months. Finishing it was like losing a sudden friend, one who disappears before being assimilated into the furnishings of the rest of your life. Admittedly, this friend was frequently exasperating, long-winded, and smug, but he was also knowledgeable, humane, articulate, and monstrously well-read. Bloom is one of only a handful of university critics who consider the laity to be a proper audience for their craft—he is the only university critic I know of who has made it his mission both to embolden the lay reader to attempt the great works of literature, and to warrant to the lay reader his or her soul’s capacity to be enlarged in the attempt.
  polutropon | Mar 8, 2012 |
This is a fascinating look at 100 brilliant minds in history. This book is pretty thick, but surprisingly easy to get through. I like it because it gives a brief, readable bio about each person (2 - 8 pages each) and you don't have to read them all at once because they aren't connected.
It's a fascinating, very interesting read. ( )
  joririchardson | Jan 25, 2010 |
Ravishingly entertaining, light on substance ( )
1 vote badger-jc | Jul 8, 2008 |
I only got up to the 50th author. I will finish it later (so I say). Wonderful. Lots of info about authors I didn't know about. Most of those discussed I have at least heard of, but in the discussion of them, others are brought up which I haven't. Most useful. ( )
  SaraPrindiville | Apr 24, 2008 |
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To the beloved memory of Mirjana Kalezic
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446691291, Paperback)

What is genius? It is the trait, says Harold Bloom, of standing both of and above an age, the ancient principle that recognizes and hallows the God within us, and the gift of breathing life into what is best in every living person. Now, in a monumental achievement of scholarship, America's preeminent literary critic presents an unprecedented celebration of one hundred of the most creative literary minds in history. From the Bible to Socrates, through the transcendent masterpieces of Shakespeare and Dante, down through the ages to Hemingway, Faulkner, and Ralph Ellison, Harold Bloom explores the many parallels among his chosen geniuses and the surprising ways in which they have influenced one another over the centuries. Accompanied by revealing excerpts from their works that continue to astonish, enchant, and move readers, Bloom's insightful and spirited analyses illuminate and enlarge our common understanding of Western literary and spiritual culture...and offer us a grand yet intimate tour of it in one magnificent volume.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:05 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"What is genius? It is the trait, says Harold Bloom, of standing both of and above its age, the ancient principle that recognizes and hallows the God within us, and the gift of breathing life into what is best in every living person." "From the Bible to Socrates, through the transcendent achievements of Shakespeare and Dante, down through the ages to Hemingway, Faulkner, and Ralph Ellison, the author explores the numerous parallels between his chosen geniuses and the surprising ways they have influenced one another over the centuries. Genius also offers revealing excerpts from their works that continue to surprise, enchant, and move readers time after time. Suffused with his infectious and inexhaustible enthusiasm, Bloom's insightful analyses of the poetry of Milton, Shelley, and Whitman; the drama of Ibsen and Tennessee Williams; and the narratives of Melville and Tolstoy, among many others, illuminate and expand our common understanding and love of these great works of art.". "Illustrated with portraits of many of the featured writers, this book is the culmination of Harold Bloom's half-century of teaching and writing about literature - and a grand yet intimate tour of Western literary and spiritual culture in one magnificent volume. Enriching as it informs, Genius is a book to savor and to treasure."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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