Harold Bloom


American Literary Critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University

Author Quotes

What we call a poem is mostly what is not there on the page. The strength of any poem is the poems that it has managed to exclude.

When critics surrender to the prevailing orthodoxy, the author says they adopt the rhetoric of an occupied country, one that expects no liberation from liberation.

You get too much at last of everything: of sunsets, of cabbages, of love.

We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; that we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are. Yet the strongest, most authentic motive for deep reading?is the search for a difficult pleasure.

You know, I don't want to be offensive. But 'Infinite Jest' [regarded by many as Wallace's masterpiece] is just awful. It seems ridiculous to have to say it. He can't think, he can't write. There's no discernible talent.

We read frequently if unknowingly, in quest of a mind more original than our own.

We read just to pass the time or moved by a serious need, but the time will come when we will read fighting against time.

We read not only because we cannot know enough people, but because friendship is so vulnerable, so likely to diminish or disappear, overcome by space, time, imperfect sympathies, and all the sorrows of familial and passional life.

We read to find ourselves, more fully and more strangely than otherwise we could hope to find.

We read, frequently if not unknowingly, in search of a mind more original than our own.

We read, I think, to repair our solitude, though pragmatically the better we read, the more solitary we become.

We'll try this first. If it doesn't work, we'll try something else. That's life, isn't it?

What Emily Dickinson does not rename or redefine, she revises beyond easy recognition.

What I think I have in common with the school of deconstruction is the mode of negative thinking or negative awareness, in the technical, philosophical sense of the negative, but which comes to me through negative theology.

What is literary tradition? What is a classic? What is a canonical view of tradition? How are canons of accepted classics formed, and how are they unformed? I think that all these quite traditional questions can take one simplistic but still dialectical question as their summing up: do we choose tradition or does it choose us, and why is it necessary that a choosing take place, or a being chosen? What happens if one tries to write, or to teach, or to think, or even to read without the sense of a tradition? Why, nothing at all happens, just nothing.

What is supposed to be the very essence of Judaism - which is the notion that it is by study that you make yourself a holy people - is nowhere present in Hebrew tradition before the end of the first or the beginning of the second century of the Common Era.

What matters in literature in the end is surely the idiosyncratic, the individual, the flavor or the color of a particular human suffering.

A poem, novel, or play acquires all of humanity's disorders, including the fear of mortality.

Beckett: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Everyone wants a prodigy to fail; it makes our mediocrity more bearable.

I am naive enough to read incessantly because I cannot, on my own, get to know enough people profoundly enough.

I won't say he [Shakespeare] 'invented' us, because journalists perpetually misunderstand me on that. I'll put it more simply: he contains us. Our ways of thinking and feeling-about ourselves, those we love, those we hate, those we realize are hopelessly 'other' to us-are more shaped by Shakespeare than they are by the experience of our own lives.

Jos‚ Saramago for the last 25 years stood his own with any novelist of the Western world? He was the equal of Philip Roth, Gunther Grass, Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo. His genius was remarkably versatile ? he was at once a great comic and a writer of shocking earnestness and grim poignancy. It is hard to believe he will not survive.

Not a moment passes these days without fresh rushes of academic lemmings off the cliffs they proclaim the political responsibilities of the critic, but eventually all this moralizing will subside.

Reading well makes children more interesting both to themselves and others, a process in which they will develop a sense of being separate and distinct selves.

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American Literary Critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University