To Dream, to Collect

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"Our time is limited. We read around the clock. We read ultimately in the shadow of mortality. And I think it does matter immensely what you read, and how you read it..."

Harold Bloom had a beautiful name. That’s all I could say when a friend told me he passed away. I could have faked better, but what would be the point? I now know that I really missed out. If you have, too, here are some of the first things I noticed. 

He was born and raised in Bronx, but his accent had a vague nuance of British in it. That might have served him well in the very caustic comments he delivered almost as fast as he could read. Legend has it, he could read up to 400 pages in one hour. He could have definitely been one of the Book People in Fahrenheit 451, since he could memorize hundreds of lines of text and recite them by heart.

Harold was sure the Bible, or at least the very first part of it, was written by a “highly-placed, very sophisticated and ironic woman at the court of Salomon.” He was a love-or-hate kind of person. His devotion to the Western Canon put him at odds with the majority of contemporary multi-cultural critics. His world had William Shakespeare at the core, and he once said: “Freud is essentially prosified Shakespeare.”

Controversy ran throughout Bloom’s prolific career, and grew along with his broad-audience popularity – a kind of popularity most other critics did not enjoy. He put together shortlists and long lists about not only the books we should read, but about the books we should not stop teaching in school. 
«What are now called ‘Departments of English’ will be renamed departments of ‘Cultural Studies,’» he wrote in his cornerstone book The Western Canon: « where Batman comics, Mormon theme parks, television, movies and rock will replace Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth and Wallace Stevens. [...] Major, once-elitist universities and colleges, will still offer a few courses in Shakespeare, Milton and their peers, but these will be taught by departments of three or four scholars, equivalent to teachers of ancient Greek and Latin. »

Above all, Harold cared about the esthetic value of books, and whether that was old-fashioned or not, he couldn’t care less. He, more than anything else, was a lover of reading, and knew that to read well and have reading “make the mind grow”, one needs to choose. I didn’t find these on brainyquote.com, but he said them in an interview I watched, and they kinda stuck with me: « Our time is limited. We read around the clock. We read ultimately in the shadow of mortality. And I think it does matter immensely what you read, and how you read it.»

« If you possess a poem by memory, then it begins to possess you…it alters you, it changes you. »

He was not related to Orlando Bloom!

Cover image: Collage by Tablet Magazine                    
 

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world. 

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