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 Ea 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.