Harold Bloom’s list of the Great Books from the Western Canon. Read a free sample or buy Il canone occidentale by Harold Bloom. You can read this book with Apple Books on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch. Information is endlessly available to us; where shall wisdom be found?” is the crucial question with which renowned literary critic Harold Bloom begins this.
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Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom. Information is endlessly available to us; where shall wisdom be found? 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 Information is endlessly available to us; where shall wisdom be found? 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 hagold for their sustaining wisdom.
Shedding all polemic, Bloom addresses the solitary reader, who, he urges, should read for the purest of all reasons: His ultimate faith in the restorative power of literature resonates on every page of this infinitely rewarding and important book. Paperback blpom, pages. Published October 2nd by Scribner first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about How to Read and Whyplease sign up. See all 4 questions about How to Read and Why…. Lists with This Book.
The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages by Harold Bloom
This book has come by some harsh criticism, especially by eminent reviewers like Terry Eagleton and fellow goodreaders. In spite of the bad reviews by goodreaders I usually take at their word, I decided to give the book a chance.
One of the major criticism leveled at the book by most of the reviewers I found on goodreads was about how most of his discussions on various books, especially of short stories and poems, were just recapitulations of the plots and the verses and then some banal commentary on how good they were or how moving they were.
In one of his most stinging passages he remarks: Perhaps he alienates them by his repeated chanting of excessively long poems.
It does not teach you how to read books but it is an exercise on how to talk about books you have read, how to love them, how to re-read them and how to reminisce about those old companions in the most intelligent and enamored fashion. That is what bloom demonstrates. This book is an exercise in love – a reader talking about what he loves to read and why, converted forcefully into a book on how and why another should read – and this I feel was the reason the book got all its bad reviews.
It built up the wrong expectations. Readers came to it it hoping for good advice on how to read meaningfully but was treated to a long monologue on how bloom reads and why he loves it. With a better title and an explanatory subtitle, the same readers might have loved the same book that they criticized so much. Luckily for me, I did not go into it hoping for someone to teach me how to read or wondering why I should read, I am getting by well enough on those fronts; I went in hoping to discuss some of these great books and I got exactly that – a nice conversation with someone who loves books, the very best of pleasures that a reading life offers.
Ultimately, my biggest complaint is about how short the book is, how perfunctory it is – glossing over Blake and Chekov and others in the space of a few pages and treating only the smallest possible sample of their works one.
It feels like a sell-out and cheapens the experience. I did not mind the many shortcomings of the book, it reminded me of old friends and gave me a few good insights from the texts quoted and many more from my own memories of reading and most valuably, it made me think of why I read them, what I experienced then and how I was changed by each of the readings.
He calls this “the reader’s Sublime”. It is the closest to secular transcendence that we may achieve in this life – it helps us get beyond despair, loss and death.
The cultivation of that difficult pleasure, finally, is why we should read. If you have read and enjoyed most of the books discussed, pick up the book and read it to reminisce with a fellow reader and you are bound to enjoy most parts of it.
But, if you have read very few of the works discussed and pick up the book to find a reason why you should read them, you will probably hate this book and also stay away from the wonderful classics discussed, and there could be no greater tragedy. With that caveat, take my five-star rating and my complete recommendation for reading this book. View all 26 comments. View all 18 comments.
May 10, Trevor rated it it was ok Shelves: This is a remarkably conservative introduction to how to read and why.
His selection of texts is also quite conservative and illustrative of his ideological positioning. What is most interesting is that he spends so much time criticising the very idea of reading from within an ideological position that he appears completely haold to the fact of his own ideology or even that it is an ideology.
This ideology is most clearly illuminated at the end of the book when he discusses why it canohe good to rea This is a remarkably conservative introduction to how to read and why. That much of literature is a kind of genealogy in which mapping the filial debts a work owes ocidentale much of the point of reading. I very nearly stopped reading this a great many times. Look, the book was inoffensive enough, just a bit pointless.
So much of the book is a retelling of the plot lines of other works better works occidntale it made me think that I ought to be reading those books instead. The two central questions in the title — how to read and why to read — were rarely adequately answered in relation occidenttale any of the texts analysed.
The occidentalr of a lot of this book was an excuse to expound the central American myth of the individual as the only worthwhile focal-point of occidentalr he says at least twice that an American is only ever truly himself when he is alone — essentially, we are advised to read as this is the best means of turning our gaze inward and this reflection will allow recognition of aspects of ourselves that may not illuminate so well without the light of genius occidenatle by the Western canon.
Although, hardly a phallic reference in any text is passed over unnoticed. And for someone who sees irony as the key to understanding literature, it is interesting how rarely he points to the irony in any of the literature he discusses and how his view of irony seems nearly entirely limited occidentald direct opposition — to irony as sarcasm, or merely stating the direct opposite of what is actually believed.
However, irony does not need to be so limited. This level of irony is often much more interesting than that of mere contradiction or negation — but Bloom is obsessed with negation. I found some of his genealogies a little annoying and some just plain wrong. For example, he divides short stories into two traditions — either Chekhovian or Borgesian — and then places Calvino squarely blook the Borges camp.
Many may well agree with this assessment — but he does this on the basis of Invisible Cities. But I think it would be possible to classify Calvino as a descendant of Chekhov if one were to have read Mr Palomar or Marcovaldo instead — not to mention his longer short fictions such as The Baron in the Trees.
But honestly, do we really read so as to find such effective schemes to squeeze authors into?
Do we really read to draw such elaborate textual family-trees? It was interesting reading this at the same time as I am reading lots of Bourdieu. There is a quote from the introduction to this book which says: Mostly, this book would be useful if you were studying literature and, as luck may have it, one of the works you have been set just happens to be discussed here.
On its own terms — that is, in providing an answer as to how and why to read — I think this book comprehensively fails. However, it is not devoid of interest as a work in itself and it is hard to completely dislike someone who so clearly loves so many works I too love very deeply.
Bloom. Western Canon
View all 12 comments. Nov 12, Anthony rated it did not like it Recommends it for: Aspiring lit snobs, masochists. Really dull and pedantic view of literature, IMO. On the one hand, it purports to explain why one should read I’ll save you the time and money– read for enjoyment. On the other hand, it contains many references to literature that it makes almost no sense to read it unless you have already read the copious books Prof.
Bloom makes reference to.
All of this begs the question: To whom is this book targeted? To no-one in particular. As someone who posits that literature should be Really dull and pedantic view of literature, IMO.
Il canone occidentale
As someone who posits that literature should be read for pleasure, this book is full of draconian rules of pleasure. I think a more honest title for the book would be “How I Read and Why”. I can only hope this rather late work is not occcidentale of what the good Professor is all about.
I was quite inclined to like him. Sep 09, Bruce rated it really liked it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it not as a didactic exposition of reading and its values, which it is occidentxle, but as an example of how works of literature might be read and what profit there is in reading good works of literature well.
Yes, it is true that in his Prologue Bloom articulates five principles or suggestions or general observations about read I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Yes, it is true that in his Prologue Bloom articulates five principles or suggestions or general observations about reading: Clear your mind of cant.
Do not attempt to improve your neighbor or your neighborhood by what or how you read. A scholar is a candle which the love and desire of all men will light. One must be an inventor to read well. Recovery of the ironic. When I have read Bloom in the past I have often found him to be provocative, at times obscure, usually opinionated, frequently frustrating, rarely what I would consider objective.
So I approached this book as if entering into a conversation, even if I suspected that the conversation might be rambling, nonlinear, sometimes outrageous, frequently fun and at other times less satisfying.
What conversation jarold ever entirely consistent?
Thus my expectations were modest, my approach open-minded. I found some that were new to me and that I would enjoy reading.