Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds Hardcover – Oct 22 2002
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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 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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
One might well say the same of Harold Bloom.
A protean writer, Bloom resembles a chameleon whose shade of criticism shifts periodically to blend with his current obsession.
Bloom has undergone at least four critical metamorphoses: from arch-Romantic (during his "Blakean period"), to a strict Freudian phase (as shown in his legendary "anxiety of influence" theory), to Postmodernist guru (jumping onto the Francophile bandwagon with such force that he nearly overturned it), to cultural magus (as is his current state, exemplified by Genius, in which he issues edicts that display the fury of a fundamentalist preacher and the stern pronouncements of draconian law.
Bloom has changed his mind so many times that those who attempt to plot the course of his views become vertiginous.
In Genius, Bloom has written what he calls "A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds." The mosaic is of the geniuses of language, meaning that one will not find chapters on Newton, Einstein, Darwin, da Vinci, Edison, Beethoven, Mozart, or Bach.
Bloom confesses that his choice is wholly arbitrary and idiosyncratic. "No two souls," he writes, "ever agree upon what is most relevant to them."
To be fair, Bloom's elitist valuations are often on target. What serious book lover would disagree with his celebration of writers such as Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Tolstoy, Milton, Chaucer, Homer, Virgil, Plato, Goethe, Freud, Nietzsche, Montaigne, Kierkegaard, Kafka, Proust, Joyce, Melville, Hawthorne, Emerson, Frost, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Twain, Faulkner, Whitman, Hugo, Dickens, and Dostoevsky?Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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... Read morePublished on July 14 2004 by A. Fondacaro
You don't need some pretentious ass telling you what's great. I agree with the reviews sick of the shakespeare reference. Read morePublished on April 8 2004
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 morePublished on Jan. 13 2004 by Amazon Customer
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 morePublished on Sept. 10 2003 by Ventura Angelo
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 morePublished on Aug. 27 2003 by Yalensian
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 morePublished on Aug. 10 2003 by Tic Tac Toe
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 morePublished on May 23 2003 by LF
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 morePublished on May 18 2003 by Giuseppe C.