Harold Bloom’s Influences
Check out the books, authors, and Big Ideas that influenced this critic.
I have to suppress a chuckle even today as I reread this great piece I wrote for The Wall Street Journal—freaking scathing. In going up against the mega-series, I felt like a total superhero. I can only hope that the Harry Potter franchise will go away like a weepy cold sore. I picked Sorcerer's Stone because I heard it was the crème de la non-crème.
It's like watching the pyramids crumble, Keats on his funeral pyre, and a mountain of Shakespeare plays go up in flames all rolled into one. Please don't get me started about J.K. Rowling herself. She is the nemesis of intelligence. The clichés alone make me tremble. Shall we comfort ourselves that in reading her work children are reading at all? Is it better than the back of a cereal box? Are we relieved that they have to put down their Wii and pick up an actual book with pages and words? Not even close.
My review asked: "Can more than 35 million book buyers, and their offspring, be wrong?" (source). And once again, I say—nay, declare—yes. Yes they can.
This messy family tragedy led to some of my most profound epiphanies about Shakespeare. (Have I mentioned he's one of the best authors ever? Better than Toni Morrison and Stephenie Meyer put together times infinity?)
Okay, you know how we all have our favorite moments in King Lear? Yours might be when Cornwall plucks out Gloster's eyes and says "—Out vile jelly! Where is thy luster now?" Good choice.
Well, I was just sitting in the student commons one day, and it suddenly struck me that Edmund is the best scoundrel in all of Shakespeare—and he has some goooood villains (Richard III? Iago?) Edmund is just so repugnant!
To recap: as he's splayed out on the battlefield, having been stabbed by his brother, he gets word that the two sinister sisters (Goneril and Regan), who have been fighting like cats over him, are dead (homicide-suicide—CSI stuff). Does he say, "Gee that's sad? They were such, er, sweet gals"? NO. He says, "Yet Edmund was belov'd." In other words: they loved me so much that they went and did the kind of thing that only happens on 6 o'clock local news. With this dawning awareness that someone actually cared about him, he decides not to kill Cordelia and Lear. So he actually becomes a better person on his deathbed. Love changes him. I'm misty. Please excuse me.
I never ever, ever exaggerate. Never. So I am here to say that I meant what I said when I pronounced that Shakespeare's work is basically a secular bible. It's the very foundation, the basis, and font of our language, psychology, and mythology. I mean, hello, I called my book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human.
I kind of turn the tables when I interpreted this play. (Check out Hamlet: Poem Unlimited for all my thoughts.) What else would I do? I don't buy Freud's whole Oedipus Complex reading of Hamlet, which basically says that Hamlet wanted to kill Claudius because he killed his father and married his mother. I say Hamlet had major issues before the play even opened. I'm not even convinced that he gave that much of a hoot about his father. I think Yorick the jester—you know, the whole skull thing—was his one true (platonic) love. Bottom line: Hamlet is in a predicament because he's self-aware. Sucks to be with it.
I just love The Hebrew Bible. But unfortunately, all multicultural and feminist literature has taken it—the Bible—and contorted it all for their own narcissistic needs. I really stir things up in The Book of J with my claim that the first five books of the Bible weren't destined to be seen as fanatical religious works; they were just noble literature. On top of that, I argue that the mysterious author of the Hebrew Bible was—wait for it—a woman. Biblical scholars, rabbis, and journalists alike all flipped out about this one. Take that, feministas!
You never forget your first one—work of criticism, that is. I came out like gangbusters (sorta) with my work on Shelley. It was my dissertation—just had to add a few commas to get it published by Yale University Press. In this first work, I went full frontal on every critic who came before me (no anxiety of influence here!), basically saying they had no idea what they were talking about. Unlike every scholar who has ever written on this great Romantic poet, I claim that Shelley was a "mythmaker" who actually formulates his own religion through poetry. And guess what? I'm right.