Harold Bloom is a "Very Important Critic". He has a deep, personal relationship with classics that, I’m sure, is the envy of any college professor. He is the equivalent of a code writer at MS or Apple. Neck-deep in the nosebleed section — sailing in the superstratosphere — of literary criticism. He has probably forgotten more than any ten of us will ever know about classic literature. He writes and thinks in English so baroque, it’s a wonder he can still abide this mundane plane.
I like Harold because I like the way he writes. His writing style is intellectually stimulating. If you’ve ever hungered for knowledge, ever thirsted for enlightenment, ever yearned for wisdom, ever CRAVED ideas to fill you and satisfy you, this guy delivers — BIG TIME!
You are smarter after reading one of Bloom’s books. Not because you ingest and regurgitate his opinions, but because you’re a better thinker after reading one of his works, especially the three I’m talking about here. What’s so satisfying about his writing is that, mostly in WSWBF, he explains his ideas simply, million-dollar vocabulary notwithstanding. His prose is so rich with so many apparatuses that are hallmarks of superior writing.
- sentence & paragraph variety
- conversational simplicity
- spareness — not a wasted word; every word contributes to the sentence; every sentence contributes to the paragraph.
- confidence and familiarity with subjects
- remember the spinning plates guy on Ed Sullivan? HB does it with abstractions. How cool is that!
- phrasing — clacking together disparate ideas in resounding phrases such as "glorious ordeal" (S:TIoTH, p560) and "Hemingwayesque" (same, p468) Hemingwayesque??? Who else would DARE!!! I’m waiting for him to make an adverb out of James Joyce.
And how does he do it? He reads the books. He writes about them. Too simple? Yeah, but ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
This book is deceptive. What it weighs in physical terms is nowt compared to its weight in ideas and associations. It’s so dense with information, as any review of the full Shakespeare would have to be, that you should read it a chapter at a time. There’s no honor in trying to read the whole book in a few days. Reading books in a hurry is for little people. Any chapter here is like sitting down to a multi-course dinner. First the salad, then the soup, then the fish, then the entree, then the dessert, then the biscuits, cheese, and port, then brandy and cigars. You want — need — a chance to "recollect in tranquility" all that the chapter has to offer before starting another.
The book is great. His Most Majestic Stodginess, however, I take issue with sometimes. My favorite play is MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. I have a thing about double-standards. Well, after reading Ch.13 about the play, I felt guilty for liking that one above all the others. I felt childish and shallow and ditzy for liking a play about matchmaking gone awry and an overgrown tomboy who doesn’t know how to be girly enough to entice her crush. I resented Bloom, for a while. The more I thought about it though, I realized, "Hey, he’s a guy. Of course, he’s going to have a lower opinion of it." Guys, even bookish owls like Bloom, prefer the plays where someone’s getting a boot up the backside.
In his chapter on Titus Andronicus, he writes about how he’s fascinated by the play that even two of the West End’s best struggle to get just right. How bloodthirsty it is; and how he thinks it’s kinda cool that the play was designed to negate Christopher Marlowe. Contentiousness. Brutality. Senecan stoicism. If you possess a fleshy nozzle and testosterone, this is your play.
Click here to see Bloom discussing Shakespeare and Genius at the Library of Congress.