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How to Read and Why


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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 his most recent work, Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages. 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


In the tradition of Mortimer Adler's How To Read a Book and Clifton Fadiman's Lifetime Reading Plan, the indefatigable and irascible Bloom (Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human) offers his apologia for the art of reading well. Greatly saddened by contemporary academic criticism, where the "appreciation of Victorian women's underwear has replaced the appreciation of Charles Dickens and Robert Browning," Bloom stridently argues that "we read in order to strengthen the self, and to learn its authentic interests." For Bloom, as for his critical forbears Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, reading is a solitary act that fills life with zest and insight. He suggests five guiding principles for the restoration of reading and applies these principles to short stories, poems, plays, and novels. Each brief analysis is a finely crafted meditation on the power of great literature, and Bloom's assiduous interpretations of the works of Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, and Stendhal, among others, will send readers running to the books themselves. Although Bloom's use of Shakespeare as a touchstone for his "canon" of great literature is sure to be controversial, his book presents a forceful argument for the power and delight of reading deeply. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/00.]--Henry Carrigan, Lancaster, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

John Banville The Irish Times Bloom is one of the last...of his kind...one of the greatest educators of our time...Wonderful...Bloom writes with passion of those writers whom he loves, and whose work for him affirms life.
John Sutherland The Washington Post Book World Harold Bloom is one of the great literary critics of his time...How to Read and Why is...the testament of a veteran.
Michael Pakenham The Baltimore Sun Superb...A wonderful, entertaining book...extraordinarily wise, nourishing, and beautiful.

This aesthetic self-help manual is a reliably idiosyncratic guide to what Yale literary critic Bloom calls "the most healing of pleasures"Ä reading well. In chapters that focus on short stories, poems, novels and plays, Bloom takes readers on a swift but satisfying joyride through the West's most outrageous, original and exuberant textsÄclassics by Chekhov, Flannery O'Connor, Borges, Dickinson, Proust, Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison, among others. Unconventionally organized by literary genre, his text is passionately anecdotal and observant. By asking great questionsÄ"Why does Lady Bracknell delight us so much?"; "How does one read a short story?"ÄBloom hopes to influence our reading lists and habits. He gives some texts, such as Moby-Dick, almost cursory treatment; others he discusses at length. Fans of his bestselling Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998) will find the lengthy discussion of Hamlet here to be a kind of coda. Overall, this book is a testament to Bloom's view that reading is above all a pleasurably therapeutic event. "Imaginative literature is otherness, and as such alleviates loneliness," he notes, reminding us of what's inexhaustible about writers such as Whitman and Borges and attesting to the satisfaction that literary texts offer our solitary selves. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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