How to Read and Why Paperback – Oct 2 2001
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Harold Bloom's urgency in How to Read and Why may have much to do with his age. He brackets his combative, inspiring manual with the news that he is nearing 70 and hasn't time for the mediocre. (One doubts that he ever did.) Nor will he countenance such fashionable notions as the death of the author or abide "the vagaries of our current counter-Puritanism" let alone "ideological cheerleading." Successively exploring the short story, poetry, the novel, and drama, Bloom illuminates both the how and why of his title and points us in all the right directions: toward the Romantics because they "startle us out of our sleep-of-death into a more capacious sense of life"; toward Austen, James, Proust; toward Thomas Mann, Toni Morrison, and Cormac McCarthy; toward Cervantes and Shakespeare (but of course!), Ibsen and Oscar Wilde.
How should we read? Slowly, with love, openness, and with our inner ear cocked. Then we should reread, reread, reread, and do so aloud as often as possible. "As a boy of eight," he tells us, "I would walk about chanting Housman's and William Blake's lyrics to myself, and I still do, less frequently yet with undiminished fervor." And why should we engage in this apparently solitary activity? To increase our wit and imagination, our sense of intimacy--in short, our entire consciousness--and also to heal our pain. "Until you become yourself," Bloom avers, "what benefit can you be to others." So much for reading as an escape from the self!
Still, many of this volume's pleasures may indeed be selfish. The author is at his best when he is thinking aloud and anew, and his material offers him--and therefore us--endless opportunities for discovery. Bloom cherishes poetry because it is "a prophetic mode" and fiction for its wisdom. Intriguingly, he fears more for the fate of the latter: "Novels require more readers than poems do, a statement so odd that it puzzles me, even as I agree with it." We must, he adjures, crusade against its possible extinction and read novels "in the coming years of the third millennium, as they were read in the eighteenth and nineteenth century: for aesthetic pleasure and for spiritual insight."
Bloom is never heavy, since his vision quest contains a healthy love of irony--Jedediah Purdy, take note: "Strip irony away from reading, and it loses at once all discipline and all surprise." And this supreme critic makes us want to equal his reading prowess because he writes as well as he reads; his epigrams are equal to his opinions. He is also a master allusionist and quoter. His section on Hedda Gabler is preceded by three extraordinary statements, two from Ibsen, who insists, "There must be a troll in what I write." Who would not want to proceed? Of course, Bloom can also accomplish his goal by sheer obstinacy. As far as he is concerned, Don Quixote may have been the first novel but it remains to this day the best one. Is he perhaps tweaking us into reading this gigantic masterwork by such bald overstatement? Bloom knows full well that a prophet should stop at nothing to get his belief and love across, and throughout How to Read and Why he is as unstinting as the visionary company he adores. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
This aesthetic self-help manual is a reliably idiosyncratic guide to what Yale literary critic Bloom calls "the most healing of pleasures"A reading well. In chapters that focus on short stories, poems, novels and plays, Bloom takes readers on a swift but satisfying joyride through the West's most outrageous, original and exuberant textsAclassics by Chekhov, Flannery O'Connor, Borges, Dickinson, Proust, Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison, among others. Unconventionally organized by literary genre, his text is passionately anecdotal and observant. By asking great questionsA"Why does Lady Bracknell delight us so much?"; "How does one read a short story?"ABloom hopes to influence our reading lists and habits. He gives some texts, such as Moby-Dick, almost cursory treatment; others he discusses at length. Fans of his bestselling Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998) will find the lengthy discussion of Hamlet here to be a kind of coda. Overall, this book is a testament to Bloom's view that reading is above all a pleasurably therapeutic event. "Imaginative literature is otherness, and as such alleviates loneliness," he notes, reminding us of what's inexhaustible about writers such as Whitman and Borges and attesting to the satisfaction that literary texts offer our solitary selves. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The fast-moving commentaries are almost too much. I could not read this book in one sitting. Reading about another's perception's of Nabokov and Hemingway and Cervantes and Shakespeare and Milton and Faulkner and Ellison and Morrison (to name only a few of the authors mentioned in these 283 pages) in one sitting is, for me, impossible. I had to come up for air rather frequently. I had to think about what I had read; I had to let the words I had heard sink in-for, as Bloom points out, we must listen when we read. But in the end, I found the book well worth the effort.
For this book teaches the patient and attentive reader something few books on literature will: that we should read not out of any ideology, not to better the world but to better ourselves.Read more ›
Although these lyrics remain wonderful poetry, they are not what the usual eight-year old boy chooses to commit to memory. At the age of seventy, when this book was written, Bloom had not really changed so much from the precocious little boy he had been at eight. He was still chanting, still being pretentious and showy and he was still the world's premier reader. I don't know if Bloom was great fun when he was eight but he was certainly great fun at seventy.
In How to Read and Why, Bloom laments the death of memorized verse, telling us that people today now read far fewer poems than they did previously and with far less attention, simply because they don't have to. But, he goes on, the very fact that we don't have to is no excuse for not doing so. He exhorts us to try harder; learn more; read better.
Those who are familiar with Bloom will not be surprised to find, in this book, that he adores the poetry of eighteenth-century England. The poets writing at that time despaired of everything but a strong sense of self and its tremendous power of endurance. Bloom, himself, despairs of computers, television and anything else that draws our attention away from quality reading. Quality is the all-important key word to Bloom. Poe, Bloom tells us, wrote atrociously even though he remains immensely popular.Read more ›
His guide to Faulkner is thought-provoking, and his admiration for Melville intriguing. Here he even argued that the author of Moby Dick influenced, in some ways, Toni Morisson's art of writing.
Of course, one should never forget that Bloom is a passionate advocate of Shakespeare, and his article on this god-like English writer is not something one could ignore. For Bloom, Shakespeare is the only possible rival to the bible, in literary power at least.
This is a sincere analysis on how to read and why. A brilliant and outrageous compilation.
You'd be better served simply doing a Google search for the various short stories it covers in chapter 2. They're all good and you can find most of them online. I copied and pasted 5 of them (they're public domain) and printed them out. They're all worth reading.
Basically, How to Read and Why is a fun book, but you might as well just buy the books that are listed in the index. Bloom doesn't add too much to them.
Most recent customer reviews
Because these things exist and continue existing in our minds, what other justification do you want? They lift up our imaginations and the imaginations of the artists. Read morePublished on July 14 2004 by A. Fondacaro
Other reveiwers have pointed out the inaccuracy of the title, and I state my agreement with their judgement. Read morePublished on May 30 2004 by Megan Lambert
'Worshiping at the Altar of Shakespeare' would be a more appropriate title for Professor Bloom's book. Or possibly, 'WHAT to Read and Why. Read morePublished on Oct. 30 2003 by A. Wolverton
Much of Bloom's recent--that is, post-The Western Canon--fare has the flavor of being written for the sake simply of publishing another book or for broadcasting his literary... Read morePublished on Oct. 29 2003 by Yalensian
I love book talk. This is an interesting title for a book. We know Bloom has read a lot of books because he has written so many. Read morePublished on Oct. 24 2003 by Mary E. Sibley
Most bibliophiles will pick up this exegesis from the renowned literary critic, Harold Bloom, simply on the inherent challenge in the title. Read morePublished on Sept. 1 2003 by ilmk
Distinguished literary scholar Harold Bloom writes of the joy of reading, which he perceives as a deeper, wider way of understanding, not limited as is our own experience, or our... Read morePublished on July 8 2003 by Karen Sampson Hudson
Professor Bloom is sometimes pooh-poohed for his support of the Western Canon, but for those not immersed in the humanities, the book is likely to be a signpost to a deeper... Read morePublished on June 5 2003 by James Igoe
This is the last time I buy one of Bloom's new books in hardcover. The slim volume is attractively packaged but it wasn't worth the price. Read morePublished on May 1 2003
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