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Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds [Hardcover]

Harold Bloom
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 22 2002
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. 50 photos.

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From Publishers Weekly

With The Western Canon, Yale-based critical eminence Bloom tapped into a strain of the cultural zeitgeist looking for authoritative takes on what to read. Bloom here follows up with 6-10 pages each on 100 "geniuses" of literature (all deceased) pointing to the major works, outlining the major achievements therein, showing us how to recognize them for ourselves. Despite the book's length, Bloom's mostly male geniuses are, as he notes "certainly not `the top one hundred' in anyone's judgement, my own included. I wanted to write about these." Bloom backs up his choices with such effortless and engaging erudition that their idiosyncrasy and casualness become strengths. While organized under the rubric of the 10 Kabalistic Sefirot, "attributes at once of God and of Adam Kadmon or Divine Man, God's Image," Bloom's chosen figures are associated by his own brilliant (and sometimes jabbingly provocative) forms of attention, from a linkage of Dr. Johnson, Goethe and Freud to one of Dickens, Celan and Ellison (with a few others in between them). A pleasant surprise is the plethora of lesser-known Latin American authors, from Luz Vaz de Camoes to Jos‚ Maria E‡a de Queiroz and Alejo Carpentier. Many familiar greats are here, too, as is a definition of genius. "This book is not a work of analysis or of close reading, but of surmise and juxtaposition," Bloom writes, and as such readers will find it appropriately enthusiastic and wild.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Bloom, a distinguished and often controversial literary critic and best-selling author of numerous books about literature (e.g., How To Read and Why), explores the concept of literary genius through the ages by examining 100 writers. Aside from such "must includes" as Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Homer, Virgil, and Plato, Bloom offers some perhaps less well known to American readers, such as Lady Murasaki and Octavio Paz, acknowledging that his selections are idiosyncratic and were chosen because he wanted to write about certain authors, not because they were necessarily in "the top one hundred." In the introduction, Bloom posits a definition of genius that is fleshed out in his discussion of each writer. Authors are clustered into Lustres, or groups of five, while a brief introduction to each section explains why the writers in the section are associated with one another. (Each of the Lustres is based on one of the common names for the Kabbalistic Sefirot, which Bloom describes as representing God's creativity or genius.) Although the book is a delight to read, its real value lies in the author's ability to provoke the reader into thinking about literature, genius, and related topics. No similar work discusses literary genius in this way or covers this many writers. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
Shana C. Fair, Ohio Univ. Lib., Zanesville
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
They should have titled this "The Western Canon part two." Bloom gets to glorify his favorite poster boys Shakespeare and Freud again, as well as sermonize about others such as Cervantes, Mann and Faulkner (who have no business being called genuises).
In addition, the title is also misleading in the sense that Bloom actually means, "Literary Creative Minds." Nowhere does he talk about Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Monet, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Schubert, Rachmaninoff etc etc etc. He also ignores two very creative literary figures; Dr. Suess and Vladimir Nabokov, two authors whose genius cannot be contested.
It might be taken as arrogance that Bloom has only focused on literary genius, or what he takes to be genius. The implication is that writers, poets and philosophers have sole claim to the title "Genius." Actually, this is just the limitations of Bloom's training as an English Professor, as well as a product of his horrifically inventive and capable mind. Wouldn't one be biased towards literatures if they had spent their whole lives teaching and researching just that?
This book is also produced on the assumption that the author knows exactly what makes a genius a genius. Although when one reads the book, the impression is that Bloom is far more fascinated with the works of the subject rather than the figures themselves, but this is what he does. So if you're searching for very incisive criticism on the lives of some very prominent people in the written history, delve in. If you're a student of music, art or even mathematics, this book is not about you. Bloom caters to the exclusive group of literateurs.
This is precisely what Bloom wants though, exclusivity.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Third times a charm... June 27 2004
Format:Paperback
At times this book is amusing, entertaining, sometimes even enlightening but most of all exasperating. Harold Bloom has spent half a century digging deep into the best that our literary culture has to offer, but all he has given us, once again, is another 800 pages of unedited notes. Each Genius is regrettably reduced to a few pages of off-hand comments and we have seen many of these comments too many times before in his books on the Western Canon and Shakespeare.
There is some humor and insight but for every insight we get thirty pages of unexplained marginalia like the following: "Negation of seeming realities in an ostensibly Christian society is the essence of Kierkegaard's genius, but this was an anxiety for him, since Kierkegaard had to be post-Hegelian, even as we have to be post-Freudian." This might make a great thesis statement for a long article (or even a book) but Bloom tosses it off like it is a self-evident truth that needs no further elaboration. I suspect it meant something interesting to Bloom, but it is lost on those mortals among us who cannot read his mind (and he complains about the obfuscation of the French!)
I guess if you are as well-established and respected as Harold Bloom then you no longer need to write books, you can merely publish them.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Bloom 100 June 25 2004
By A.J.
Format:Paperback
This thick book is Harold Bloom's meditation on literary genius, by which he means not exactly an extraordinary intelligence but a communication with the "God within," an internal source of world-expanding creative inspiration, that only few people manage to achieve. He selects one hundred authors -- the list, he stresses, is by no means hermetic -- in the literary canon who in his estimation have done this, subdividing them into ten groups of ten, each group represented by a concept from the Kabbalah called a Sefirah. For example, under Hesed, or "God's covenant love for men and women," he locates Donne, Pope, Swift, Austen, and others who he feels manifest various aspects (especially irony, one of his favorite topics) of such love.
Which authors have genius? Shakespeare, obviously, and all the classical poets whose works have survived for a number of centuries, and Bloom's personal hero of literary criticism, Samuel Johnson, and even T.S. Eliot, towards whom Bloom displays a dichotomous attitude of admiration mixed with hostility. What evidence of genius is offered that elevates these authors above the merely talented? For Renaissance historian and prose stylist extraordinaire Walter Pater, it is his "secularization of the religious epiphany"; for Balzac, it is his mercurial comic criminal Vautrin; for Robert Browning, it is his perfected development of the dramatic monologue.
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1.0 out of 5 stars The Critic as Genius June 15 2004
Format:Hardcover
Genius by Harold Bloom. A mosaic of one hundred exemplary creative minds,Fourth Estate, London,2002 25 pounds.
With this book Harold Bloom reaffirms the place he has already staked out for himself, as the most bold and ambitious literary critic of our time. He does this by surveying world literature and selecting from it the one - hundred supreme literary geniuses, and in five or six pages for each discussing what defines the unique genius if each one.Each chapter has a short frontispiece in which he says something more general about the life and work of the individual creator, and a larger section in which he reads and interprets a selected piece of writing of the particular genius. His analysis and his own writing sparkle with aphoristic brilliance,with deep and broad knowledge, and with a rare capacity to make remarkable new connections between literary figures and worlds. Above all, the book is pervaded by his love of reading, his love of great imaginative literature.And the whole work is testament to and evidence of his total enthusiasm about and dedication to this world
Frequently in the work he mentions with a degree of modesty which would make Faustus proud, his knowing by heart vast sections of a particular literary masterpiece. This recalling time and again his own memorizing of particular works, is only one of the many obsessions which play such a large part in the work.Bloom does not remind repeating himself, tells us over and over again that he is seventy - one, that to his regret he has lived to see the university world taken over by the politically correct. He rails against those curricula which select writers on basis of ethnic belonging, gender, race.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars read the books yourselve's people
You don't need some pretentious ass telling you what's great. I agree with the reviews sick of the shakespeare reference. Read more
Published on April 8 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars If I see one more Shakespeare reference...
The good news is that this book contains a wealth of knowledge, and you'll definitely feel like you've learned a lot upon completing it. Read more
Published on Jan. 13 2004 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Professor Bloom's will to impose system is overdetermined.
A student once asked an Oxford University don, "What is the philosophy of Bertrand Russell?" The professor replied, "Which year? Read more
Published on Nov. 13 2003 by Roy E. Perry
2.0 out of 5 stars A conservative view
OK, for him only The Great Classics who speak of Death, Doom and Misery are worth reading. Well, let's bow to his critical skill, but I think I'll follow my own path and I'll... Read more
Published on Sept. 10 2003 by Ventura Angelo
3.0 out of 5 stars not Bloom's best
Harold Bloom loves--LOVES--reading, books, the written word. That comes through in all of his recent books and adds an extra something to them. Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2003 by Yalensian
1.0 out of 5 stars Huh, What's That You Just Said?
I bought this book on impulse while shopping for something else because I thought it might illuminate me on which authors I would find interesting. Read more
Published on Aug. 10 2003 by Tic Tac Toe
1.0 out of 5 stars Wrong title
In the introduction, the author tells us that no, he really doesn't think he selected the 100 most brilliant people, or even the 100 most brilliant writers, of all time. Read more
Published on May 23 2003 by LF
4.0 out of 5 stars One hundred plus one
Ignore the titles of Bloom's recent publications, whether they promise to explicate Shakespeare, examine the act of reading, or illuminate the mysteries of genius. Read more
Published on May 18 2003 by Samuel Chell
1.0 out of 5 stars Pound is missing...
Where is Ezra Pound and also T.S.Eliot?How can he put Camões and forget Pound?Pound is one of the most significant poets ever and this "critic" forgot him? Read more
Published on May 4 2003
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