Tony Daley, Novelist, Scripter, Poet, Short Story Writer Weighs In: The idea of art is to enrich, expand, and enlighten while performing that most difficult of functions, to entertain the audience.
Harold Bloom, sprightly, cantankerous, and as rueful as he claimed was one of his finest protégé critics, Tom Disch, remains the effervescent, sallying knight. He could no more lay down the lance nor keep it from cracking against the bulwarks of ignorance, stupidity, and splintering the moon (to crib from Harry’s favorite, Shakespeare) than another of Bloom’s loved ones, Don Quixote, could abjure his paladin’s endeavors. Bloom, the perdurable cannon blasting at the canon for himself to gain the sort of canonization reserved for Dr. Johnson, understands, as did Oscar Wilde, that all “literary criticism” is founded on personal wealth of wisdom, grace, charity, pragmatism, and a sense of sublimity as regards aesthetics. Moreover, at the crux, is Harry the Harry always feting and following Falstaff, that supremely corpulent and cormorant individualist. One must therefore read into whatever Harry writes, the makings of informed opinion resting on specialized knowledge contained within an infinite individuality and apolitical virtuousness, for true virtue blooms only in the individual thing, not the seasoned collective. Bloom knows the same thing any honest member of the modern scholastic scene (so-called ACADEME), which is to say, that no such thing exists as “literary theory” for the facts of theoretical bases, functional experimentalism, and empirical inquiry. One cannot—at least not yet—so refine, reduce, observe, differentiate, classify, or demarcate a “work of art.” Art is not a lepidopterist’s pastime, aside from Nabokov. On some level, certainly, the “work” itself, as Gore Vidal called it, remains subject to a practical dispensing of analysis based on some fundamental, mechanistic, craft-oriented aspects of the “praxis” of “art.” However, at the sublimity of creation (cf. Longinus) one finds only a sort of sublimation of haggard, human reflexive perception, and, accompanying this, RECEPTIVITY to grace, beauty, and wisdom, otherwise one cannot begin to become aware of, or apprehend fully, the components that make for enduring “wisdom literature” of which actual verbal articulations remain only part of such a total body. Wisdom is something hard to come by, of course, and Harry B. knows it well enough. For most of today’s jejune “critics” and “teachers,” time will, in the Chinese fashion of impartial passage, not kindly accommodate mere nodes and iotas of fame, fortunes, and tenure within the historical record, which stretches both ways, like an infinitely bounding number line, into past and future. Whatever prompted Harry to write about the “anxiety of influence” at the beginning of his academic career, he seems to have shed such ideology of his own, or mediated it, realizing, perhaps, that playing such puny whore’s wars in the “groves of academy” lead to lacunae, never enlightenment, that enlightenment itself is antithetical to true wisdom. Shakespeare obviously knew, as did the redactors of Jesus’s words, that parables of common sense make the best teachers, that common sense if not reducible by “theoreticians” and their jargon, and that at its best, the arts—literature, music, and plastic arts—teach us by portrayal, mimesis, and example to transcend our arrogance. Humbled and abashed, in the face of art, we open our eyes and ears to revelation of the comic panoply of human existence. I am not hard to bring to weeping by means of art, but I must attribute my recent tears and shivering cascade of gooseflesh along my arms, while reading of Coriolanus’s declarations of humility and service to erstwhile noble foe Aufidius of the Volsces, and of Aufidius’s returning declarations of love to Marcius, to a bringing to keen awareness of the a verisimilitude of moral and ethical spirits in men of honor, as to cause an emotional release of gratitude. Against such moments of truth, the truth being the thing always resurgent, recursive, and returning no matter of the repression of ideology and cant, no critic’s “political correctness” may stand. Whether Shakespeare was Catholic is moot beside his obvious catholicity, which is, shall we say, the sort of common sense enough of which comprises, as commented Einstein, genius. Bloom, for his stylistic peculiarities and obvious biases, remains, in the West, at least, one of “our” premier “critics,” or, shall we say, tenderly learned observers and rueful admirers of art as expression of consistent, coherent thinking. While finishing my own recent book, I have attempted to hew to coherent thinking as much as possible, and for most of his career as an artistic critic, Harry Bloom has himself hewed to such sensibleness.