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Possessed by Memory

The Inward Light of Criticism

(amazon)

Harold Bloom (View Bio)
Hardcover: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019.

Possessed by Memory
(amazon)

In brief, luminous readings of more than eighty texts by canonical authors—texts he has had by heart since childhood—Harold Bloom has written a memoir of an inward journey from childhood to age ninety. Bloom argues elegiacally with nobody but Bloom, interested only in the influence of the mind upon itself when it absorbs the highest and most enduring imaginative literature. He offers meditations on poems and prose that have haunted him since childhood and which he has possessed by memory: from the Psalms and Ecclesiastes to Shakespeare and Dr. Johnson; Spenser and Milton to Wordsworth and Keats; Whitman and Browning to Joyce and Proust; Tolstoy and Yeats to Delmore Schwartz and Amy Clampitt; Blake to Wallace Stevens; and much more.  Though he has written before about some of these authors, these exegeses, written in the winter of his life, are movingly informed by “the freshness of last things.”  As he writes, “One of my concerns throughout Possessed by Memory is with the beloved dead. Most of my good friends in my generation have departed. Their voices are still in my ears. I find that they are woven into what I read. I listen not only for their voices but also for the voice I heard before the world was made. My other concern is religious, in the widest sense. For me poetry and spirituality fuse as a single entity. All my long life I have sought to isolate poetic knowledge. This also involves a knowledge of God and gods. I see imaginative literature as a kind of theurgy in which the divine is summoned, maintained, and augmented.”