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A Mosaic of 100 Exemplary Creative Minds


Harold Bloom (View Bio)
Hardcover: Warner, 2002; Paperback: Warner, 2003.


"With THE WESTERN CANON, Yale-based critical eminence Bloom tapped into a strain of cultural zeitgeist looking for authoritative takes on what to read. Bloom here follows up with 6-10 pages each on 100 'geniuses' of literature.... Bloom backs up his choices with such effortless and engaging erudition that their idiosyncrasy and casualness become strengths.... Bloom's chosen figures are associated by his own brilliant (and sometimes jabbingly provocative) forms of attention.... Readers will find it appropriately enthusiastic and wild." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"With his Falstaffian girth and formidable reputation as a cultural critic, Harold Bloom is a scholar who does nothing on a small scale. His new book...is a milestone of research and inquiry, a broad-minded examination of the nature of genius and how (and in whom) it has manifested itself during the centuries.... A kaleidoscopic look at a group of superior individuals that blends biography with literary criticism.... A fascinating exhibit of remarkable intellects. GENIUS is inspiring, accessible, and provocative — a generous survey that will enlarge the reader's comprehension of art, as well as his understanding of the role of the creative mind throughout history." — Bookpage

"This is bracingly high-falutin' stuff, and only a cultural prophet of Bloom's ambition, daring, and disdain would risk it.... [Bloom is] never less than an ecstatic celebrant of human greatness." — The Irish Times

"Of course Bloom is a genius but also an advocate, a promoter, a monger, as his monumental roster of critical works and his compelling voice prove, of genius and its blinding importance in world culture.... Revel in...or rebel against, as the case may be, Bloom's choices and his always pertinent, perspicacious, provocative...insights.... Exhilarating." — The Commercial Appeal

"Not your usual literary critic, Bloom.... His enthusiasm, his gigantic assertions, and his religious fervor have the power to trample unbelief to dust." — The New York Times Book Review

"In a postscript to his introduction entitled 'Genius: A Personal Definition,' Bloom offers a rule of thumb for distinguishing between talent and genius: However I have been entertained, has my awareness been intensified, my consciousness widened and clarified? If not, then I have encountered talent, not genius. What is best and oldest in myself has not been activated.' By this criterion, GENIUS is without doubt a work of genius." — Daily Yomiuri (Japan)

"If you own GOOD TO GREAT, BY Jim Collins, why not trade it in for GENIUS, a synthesis of the brilliant ideas the inspired enthralling writers like Shakespeare and Goethe." — Fortune

"I know that I'm not the first to wonder — no, to gape, stunned — at the cataract intensity of the mind and sensibility of Harold Bloom, whose various works of literary summations...reproach me from my shelves: Not only have I not taken them in as completely as they have offered themselves, but worse, all the time that I have been but dithering here and there in the shallows of the word, this prodigious intellect has been steadily siphoning up the best that has been thought and written, making ready to serve it back, comprehended and integrated, in yet another mastodon volume. And here it is.... I hope that my tone captures, alongside my inevitable human exasperation, my unbounded admiration.... [Bloom has an] irresistible adoration of literature.... Luminous...the pages are crowded with exuberant personality. Bloom's outsize ambition and reach make the idea of greatness attractive once again." — Washington Post Book World

"I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone who loves literature. You will be reacquainted with authors who have already expanded your consciousness; you will encounter evocative quotations and helpful summaries of authors unknown to who might one day expand your consciousness in an unforgettable way.... He has read broadly and thought deeply about our literary tradition." — Boston Globe

"GENIUS crackles with an oracular chutzpah." — Time Out (UK)

"For all the abuse of the word, genius retains a more potent meaning that Harold Bloom explores in fascinating detail.... The wealth of information Bloom conveys in each chapter is impressive, and the enthusiasm he generates is no less remarkable.... Bloom's insights, associations, and enthusiasm will almost increase [the] number [of readers for his selected authors]." — Calgary Herald

"Extravagant and eccentric.... Striking. The essay on Milton's eroticism in PARADISE LOST, for instance, is a tour de force. As are his magnificent pages on Emily Dickinson and on the 19th-century Portuguese novelist Jose Maria de Quieroz — a writer whom Bloom's essay has persuaded me to read at the first opportunity." — The Age (Melbourne)

"Endearingly, [Bloom] compares reading to falling in love. It's better, he claims, because the emotional cost is so much less. As a reader of a particular beloved text, Bloom can be invaluable, in part simply because he has read so much. He has a genius for quotation.... [He] also shares the remarkable gleanings of his biographical research." — Book magazine

"Different — and at times surprisingly illuminating — is the effect of this new mode of comparison. Taking advantage of the spatial and aesthetic connotations of 'Mosaic', Bloom manages a number of suggestive juxtapositions in his 'Lustres'.... This book [has] an angry magnificence." — Times Literary Supplement

"Characteristically eloquent, and sly.... Witty, profound." — Montreal Gazette

"Bloom's own genius is...for restoring us to an awareness of literature's uncanny, unspannable distance from ordinary life.... What Bloom loves he loves with such largeness of heart that he transforms into a fundamental critical principle, and at a time when critics vie with one another to see who can manifest the greatest degree of suspicion, such generosity is nothing to laugh at." — The New York Times Book Review

"Bloom is supremely well-read, hugely enthusiastic about his subject, and is able to write such clear, jargon-free critical prose, one wonders how he ever earned tenure at Harvard and Yale." — The Jerusalem Post

"Bloom is fighting the good fight for literature." — The Observer (UK)

"Bloom is a powerful, idiosyncratic cultural voice.... Those looking for a lively and brief overview of 'greats' from Homer to Hemingway will find GENIUS worth it." — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"[Bloom] is energetic, prolific, and wide-ranging. He thinks big — all his themes are major ones — and he has seldom thought bigger than he does in his new book." — The Sunday Times(London)

"'That is what the highest criticism really is, the record of one's soul'...[writes] Oscar Wilde...as quoted by Bloom in his most recent, most vast...rather wonderful opus.... Bloom's criticism is nothing other than the record of his soul, the soul of a reader who swallows literature whole and then digests over decades; the soul of a reader who looks to literature for companionship, who believes that the characters he meets in books are more 'real' than flesh-and-blood creatures that surround him. If you are interested in the spiritual moods and imaginative passions of a rather extraordinary mind, this might be the book for you.... Bloom's definition of genius reminds us that whatever crimes and misdemeanours our species is capable of, it is also capable of greatness.... We are capable, Bloom seems to be saying, of something larger, something grander than that which is indicated by our corporeal selves, and what is truly wonderful is that it is not simply the geniuses themselves gifted by the speaking god — the spark transmits to the reader too. At the dark beginnings of the 21st century, Bloom, with his expansive brilliance, is surely the kind of critic we need." — Times Higher Education Supplement (London)

"Exciting and revealing.... This is a vast and sprawling book.... GENIUS itself is a specimen of wisdom literature.... It is not a work of analysis but of celebration and surmise.... The book is richly rewarding as an aide├║memoire, a tour d'horizon, a top of the pops.... GENIUS is engaging and refreshing, Bloom is passionate and impassioned. He takes literature personally, and his histrionic personality fills the book. He winces; he croons; he grimaces; he grows old; he becomes frightened. He laments, and he rhapsodizes. He remarks upon his great bulk, but who could read so many books without becoming vast? He lusts after Emma Bovary, and swoons with Hamlet. He reads and rereads the same books endlessly. He has impersonated Falstaff on the stage — he becomes Falstaff. He learns epic poems by heart; he ingests them so that they become the stuff of his being.... [The writing] testifi[es] to the range and diversity of Bloom's wit. It also exemplifies the pertinence of this lively and exhilarating book." — The Times (London)

"Bloom's great distinction and power as a literary critic, and a best-selling one at that, is the union of his extraordinary erudition and his profound love for literature. a gifted reader, teacher, and writer, he has celebrated literature's magnificence in such influential books as THE WESTERN CANON and HOW TO READ AND WHY, and now conducts a magnificent inquiry into that elusive quality called genius. Bloom strictly profiles 'geniuses of language' — poets, dramatists, novelists, philosophers, and religious writers — and, except for a core group which includes Shakespeare, Cervantes, Dante, Milton, and Tolstoy, has selected 100 (all deceased, including the most contemporary, Octavio Paz, Ralph Ellison, Iris Murdoch) not because they're top geniuses, but because their quests were in some measure cosmic, their language transcendent, and their lives intriguing. Literature is a spiritual calling for Bloom and his geniuses, so he has organized this bountiful volume according to the Kabbalah's 10 divine attributes or emanations, the Sefirot, which chart 'the process of creation.' This makes for some wonderfully fresh and provocative juxtapositions, and for an elevating concentration on how each writer extends the path toward wisdom. Personal heroes such as Dr. Samuel Johnson and Ralph Waldo Emerson receive particularly incisive readings, as do Victor Hugo, Isaac Babel, Virginia Woolf, Wallace Stevens...well, one could go on. Bloom's mission in this stupendous yet intimate compendium of succinct yet sophisticated essays is 'to activate the genius of approbation' in his readers for one of humanity's finest callings, and that he does with ardor, wit, and deep knowledge." — Booklist (starred review)

"Bloom, a distinguished and often controversial literary critic and best-selling author of numerous books about literature, explores the concept of literary genius through the ages by examining 100 writers. Aside from such 'must includes' as Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Homer, Virgil, and Plato, Bloom offers some perhaps less well known to American readers, such as Lady Murasaki and Octavio Paz, acknowledging that his selections are idiosyncratic and were chosen because he wanted to write about certain authors, not because they were necessarily in 'the top one hundred.' In the introduction, Bloom posits a definition of genius that is fleshed out in his discussion of each writer. Authors are clustered into Lustres, or groups of five, while a brief introduction to each section explains why the writers in the section are associated with one another. (Each of the Lustres is based on one of the common names for the Kabbalistic Sefirot, which Bloom describes as representing God's creativity or genius.) Although the book is a delight to read, its real value lies in the author's ability to provoke the reader into thinking about literature, genius, and related topics. No similar work discusses literary genius in this way or covers this many writers." — Library Journal

"A marvellous book.... Wildly indecorous and charming.... Bloom invokes and then elucidates the idea of GENIUS, rather than circumventing it, precisely because he thinks that it is genius, not talent that separates true work from the fool's gold that ultimately turns into a mere period piece.... GENIUS yields a consistently wise and impressive survey of its subject.... A comprehensively loving book.... A testament to the wisdom and judgment of Bloom as a critic.... This is an almost boundlessly rich rag-bag of mature critical reflection at every point.... GENIUS, for Bloom's fans, will be both a familiar pleaure and a revelation.... So don't be too eager to think that Bloom's GENIUS is either a regurgitation of yesterday's elitism or a surrender to middlebrow marketplace. It is nothing like either.... It is remarkable at every point and it will offer God's plenty to anyone who cares about literary work, whether they think of this as a niche preference or whether they see belief in literature as shrouding a metaphysics.... Criticism, my dears, doesn't get better than [this].... It is the thing compared to which most criticism is shadows on a cave wall.... This sort of imaginative grandeur in the task of literary interpretation would not be possible without the heroism, defying all parody and self-parody, of the great thing, which Bloom attempts." — The Sydney Morning-Herald

"A fresh installment in Bloom's Adleresque campaign to dust off the Western Civ 101 syllabus for a generation of readers led astray by the 'impostors' running the academy. 'Genius,' Bloom allows, is a slippery term: it is 'a mystery of the capacious consciousness'; it is 'idiosyncratic and grandly arbitrary, and ultimately stands alone'; it is revealed in, well, works of genius of the sort that the contemporary university seems to have little room for — in, say, the poems of Eliot, the dramas of Shakespeare, the sermons of Donne. Never mind the apparent circularity of the argument, for here Bloom collects deeply learned remarks, critical and biographical, on a cluster of a hundred shapers and makers of the mind as, he suggests, it ought to be.... Bloom is inclusive...grouping his hundred authors by a complex — and certainly idiosyncratic — classificatory system of perceived affinities, one that derives from the Kabbalah and certain Gnostic texts.... Bloom's system will likely be more meaningful to Bloom than his readers, but it's refreshing all the same to see Herman Melville alongside Virginia Woolf, Robert Browning alongside Lewis Carroll, Homer alongside James Joyce by virtue of their writerly interests. Bloom's biographical sketches are satisfyingly offbeat, if sometimes so allusive as to assume wide background reading.... Still, readers suitably prepared for Bloom will find this a rewarding excursion." — Kirkus Reviews

"A consistent vision informs all of [Bloom's] literary criticism: an abiding love for literature, a profound delight in its endlessly various riches, and a strong sense of personal engagement with specific works and authors.... Refreshingly free of academic jargon: forceful, direct, highly personal and expressive, yet attuned to the infinite complexities of his subjects.... The book is full of charmingly outrageous apercus that, on reflection, ring true.... GENIUS is a work of appreciation rather than analysis. Grand in conception, it is nonetheless remarkable for its genuine lack of pretentiousness. Bloom is not shy about offering his opinions.... His passionate intelligence is tempered by wit and self-deflationary humor.... GENIUS stands as an affirmation: of the individual in an age of group-think and mass marketing; of excellence in an era of mediocrity; of originality in a time of faddishness and strained outrageousness — a genuine instance of intellectual generosity at a time of envy and greed." — Baltimore Sun

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