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Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary…

Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds (2002)

by Harold Bloom

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Recently added byckadams5, Floyd3345, JackMorris9, private library, J_Ortega, FourFreedoms, fzuke, CynK, RyanLiguori



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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Harold Bloom takes 100 creative minds worthy of being called 'Genius' in his estimation and explains why he chose each person. Since the man is a literary critic he doesn't go into music or art criticism. Thus, you will not find Mozart or Delacroix being reviewed in these pages.

Professor Bloom starts out by describing his strange way of organizing the authors. Bloom goes by the Kabbalah and organizes them by the Sefirot. So there are ten different Sefirot and each Sefirot contains ten authors. Some of them I had not heard much of before. Others he chooses for reasons I did not expect. For instance, take Victor Hugo, the great Poetic genius of France. I seriously had not heard that he was a poet, and had only heard of him from Les Miserables(sic) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

In any case, I suppose I really need to step up my reading game, but I am glad that I heard of the Lion's Share of these authors. Not that it matters much. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
While I am very glad that he introduced me to the category of Essayists, I found him to be both pedantic and condescending. In short, nearly unbearable. Yet I did find his organisation of the work by Kabbalistic sephirot to be intriguing. ( )
  FourFreedoms | May 17, 2019 |
While I am very glad that he introduced me to the category of Essayists, I found him to be both pedantic and condescending. In short, nearly unbearable. Yet I did find his organisation of the work by Kabbalistic sephirot to be intriguing. ( )
  ShiraDest | Mar 6, 2019 |
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 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:38 -0400)

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From the Bible to Ralph Ellison, America's most prominent and bestselling literary critic takes an enlightening look at the concept of genius through the ages in a celebration of the greatest creative writers of all time.

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