If Michael Jordan offered a seminar on jumping, you can bet anyone with a pair of Nikes would want to attend. Just so, when Harold Bloom published a book called How to Read and Why it went straight onto the New York Times Bestseller list. As a titan of American criticism, Bloom is arguably the best book reader in the country. However, perhaps of more significance, he is also one of our best teachers. As a professor of literature at first Harvard then Yale, Bloom has been for several decades cultivating in his students an appreciation for the immeasurable rewards of reading well, which is summed up in the central question of this book: "Information is endlessly available to us; where shall wisdom be found?" Of course, for Bloom the answer lies in the great literary works of the Western tradition, and in this book he offers short essays on a few dozen of them, those he considers most useful for "[strengthening] the self, and [learning] its authentic interests." These essays are intelligently organized by subject matter short stories, poems, novels, and plays and range in time from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. Throughout, Bloom's encyclopedic knowledge of world literature, incisive intellect, and dry wit are on display. But what comes through strongest is Bloom's almost religious faith in the fundamental value of reading well: "Read deeply, not to believe, not to accept, not to contradict, but to learn to share in that one nature that writes and reads." Farley, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
For more than forty years, renowned literary critic Harold Bloom has transformed college students into lifelong readers with his unrivaled love for literature. Now, at a time when faster and easier electronic media threaten to eclipse the practice of reading, Bloom draws on his experience as critic, teacher, and prolific reader to plumb the great books for their sustaining wisdom.
Shedding all polemic, Bloom addresses the solitary reader, who, he urges, should read for the purest of all reasons: to discover and augment the self. Bloom provides illuminating guidance on how to read the works of beloved writers such as William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Charles Dickens; and he illustrates what such reading can bring -- aesthetic pleasure, self-knowledge, and the lifetime companionship of the most intriguing and complex literary characters.
Bloom's engaging prose and brilliant insights will send you hurrying back to old favorites and entice you to discover new ones. His ultimate faith in the restorative power of literature resonates on every page of this infinitely rewarding and important book.
The New York Times Magazine
He is a colossus among critics...His enthusiasm for literature is a joyous intoxicant.
American's wisest, most prolific reader--and the "New York Times" bestselling author of "Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human"--draws upon his more than 40 years as a college professor and critic to help readers attain a truly profound engagement with great literature. (Literary Criticism)
Information is endlessly available to us; where shall wisdom be found?" is the crucial question with which renowned literary critic Harold Bloom begins this impassioned book on the pleasures and benefits of reading well. For more than forty years, Bloom has transformed college students into lifelong readers with his unrivaled love for literature. Now, at a time when faster and easier electronic media threatens to eclipse the practice of reading, Bloom draws on his experience as critic, teacher, and prolific reader to plumb the great books for their sustaining wisdom. andlt;BRandgt; Shedding all polemic, Bloom addresses the solitary reader, who, he urges, should read for the purest of all reasons: to discover and augment the self. His ultimate faith in the restorative power of literature resonates on every page of this infinitely rewarding and important book.
About the Author
Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University, Berg Professor of English at New York University, and a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard. His more than twenty books include Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, The Western Canon, The Book of J and The Anxiety of Influence. He is a MacArthur Prize fellow; a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the recipient of many awards, including the Academy's Gold Medal for Criticism, and he holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Rome and Bologna.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Why Read?
I. Short Stories
"Kasyan from the Beautiful Lands"
"The Lady with the Dog"
Guy de Maupassant
"Madame Tellier's Establishment"
"Hills Like White Elephants"
"God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen"
"The Snows of Kilimanjaro"
"A Sea Change"
"A Good Man Is Hard to Find"
"Good Country People"
"A View of the Woods"
"The Vane Sisters"
Jorge Luis Borges
"Tlön, Ugbar, Orbis Tertius"
Housman, Blake, Landor, and Tennyson
A. E. Housman
"Into My Heart an Air That Kills"
"The Sick Rose"
Walter Savage Landor
"On His Seventy-fifth Birthday"
Alfred Lord Tennyson
"Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came"
Song of Myself
Dickinson, Bronë, Popular Ballads, and "Tom O'Bedlam"
Poem 1260, "Because That You Are Going"
"Stanzas: Often Rebuked, Yet Always Back Returning"
"Sir Patrick Spence"
"The Unquiet Grave"
Sonnet 121, "'Tis Better to Be Vile Than Vile Esteemed"
Sonnet 129, "Th' Expense of Spirit in a Waste of Shame"
Sonnet 144, "Two Loves I Have, of Comfort and Despair"
"A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal"
"My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold"
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Shelley and Keats
Percy Bysshe Shelley
The Triumph of Life
"La Belle Dame Sans Merci"
III. Novels, Part I
Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote
Stendhal: The Charterhouse of Parma
Jane Austen: Emma
Charles Dickens: Great Expectations
Fyodor Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment
Henry James: The Portrait of a Lady
Marcel Proust: In Search of Lost Time
Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain
William Shakespeare: Hamlet
Henrik Ibsen: Hedda Gabler
Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest
V. Novels, Part II
Herman Melville: Moby-Dick
William Faulkner: As I Lay Dying
Nathanael West: Miss Lonelyhearts
Thomas Pynchon: The Crying of Lot
Cormac McCarthy: Blood Meridian
Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man
Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon
Epilogue: Completing the Work