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In arguably his most personal and lasting book America's most daringly original and controversial critic gives us brief luminous readings of than eighty texts by canonical authors texts he has had by heart since childhoodGone are the polemics Here instead in a memoir of sorts an inward journey from childhood to 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 than eighty meditations on poems and prose that have This book is reverie and not argument My title is the book in a single phrase What is it to be possessed by memory How does possession differ in these to possess dead or lost friends and lovers or to possess poetry and heightened prose by memory Nearing ninety legendary critic Harold Bloom has assembled in Possessed by Memory a sort of memoir out of his favourite poems alongside passages from the Old Testament and Shakespeare which with his own thoughts interspersed give proof to the wonderful epigraph by Oscar Wilde That is what the highest criticism really is the record of one s own soul Written over six years we watch as Bloom s body inevitably declines and urgently we watch as he monthly says goodbye to his friends and colleagues of many decades he has indeed entered the elegy season I must confess that much of Bloom s thoughts on writing are beyond my understanding but I learned much from the still active professor this is a dense yet rewarding read Note I read an ARC and passages uoted may not be in their final forms I am aware that some readers may turn away from Possessed by Memory because what they regard as heretical or at least esoteric distracts from the reading of poetry I address not them but those who yearn for what I would term a Shakespearean reading of the best poetry made available to us here in our Evening Land of the tradition sparked by Homer and Isaiah That tradition is dying As a literary and religious critic I wish to rally a saving remnant I am enthralled by the image of the insomniac Bloom reciting long stretches of by heart epics and poems to himself in the middle of the night I remember having to memorise a handful of shortish poems while in school and they are lost to me now In a society that seems to be ever turning away from our cultural foundations I can relate to Bloom s urge to rally a saving fragment However because my education was not steeped in poetry and psalms I couldn t always make the intertextual or exegetical connections that Bloom seems to take for granted with his readers I can only take it as given as Bloom relates one poem to another links one poet to the next as he so often does A lifelong brooder on the problems of poetic influence I have learned that one ultimate canonical test for poetic magnitude is provided by the sublime progeny a poet engenders By that test Wordsworth William Blake Shelley and John Keats can be awarded the palm over Byron Each of them lived on in the cavalcade of Anglo American poetry from Tennyson and Browning through Whitman and Emily Dickinson on to Thomas Hardy D H Lawrence William Butler Yeats Wallace Stevens Robert Frost T S Eliot and Hart Crane I can think only of early Auden as a poet who attempted to carry on Byron s legacy with indifferent success And I am even lost when Bloom speaks in the jargon of poetry The transcendental impulse that powers Shelley s Pindaric flights is not alien to Keats yet he turns away from it as Shakespeare did choosing Ovidian flux and change over Platonic yearnings for a premature Eternity And if I may be permitted a minor complaint on format Possessed by Memory often reads like a collection of essays instead of one linked work Not only could I not really see an overall theme other than an aged Bloom sharing whatever poemshigh prose he felt like writing about but many definitive statements were repeated throughout the essays each time as though for the first time that Johnson had inherited from Pope a distrust of the Sublime or that Blake like Milton was a sect of one or that Tennyson knew the uantity of every English word except for scissors or that Whitman writes as though he is ahead of us and waiting for the reader to catch up But who am I to criticise the criticFor the most part this is a collection of other peoples mostly Western white males writing Bloom s own thoughts take up not much space at all However I will put here some of what I found most intriguing Since childhood I have meditated upon this agon of Israel with the Angel of Death I interpret it not only as an allegory of Jewish history indeed of universal history but also as the story of my own life and the lives of everyone I have known loved taught and mourned In the half light of my incessant nocturnal wakefulness I begin to conceive of it as the struggle of every solitary deep reader to find in the highest literature what will suffice From childhood through old age I have been made uncomfortable by a God who demands sacrifices that are also thanksgivings Post Holocaust this will not work for many among us and I freuently retreat from the Psalms to the poetry of Paul Celan which has a difficult rightness and does not seek to praise what can no longer be praised My religion is the appreciation of high literature Shakespeare is the summit Revelation for me is Shakespearean or nothing The deepest lesson I have learned from Johnson is that any authority of criticism as a literary genre must depend on the human wisdom of the critic and not upon the wrongness or rightness of either theory or praxis Now almost all of my friends among the poets and critics of my generation have departed Mourning for so many men and women does not diffuse an individual grief yet makes it seem less urgent I have no doubt that Possessed by Memory will be of most interest to those who better speak Bloom s language but I found many points of connection here myself most especially when Bloom was writing intimately of his decline and his losses In its way it s a perfectly fitting memoir the capstone of a deep reader s life Decoding Roulette from childhood to 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 than eighty meditations on poems and prose that have This book is reverie and not argument My title is the book in a single phrase What is it to be possessed by memory How does possession differ in these to possess dead or lost Its Not about You Mr. Santa Claus friends and lovers or to possess poetry and heightened prose by memory Nearing ninety legendary critic Harold Bloom has assembled in Possessed by Memory a sort of memoir out of his Mr Greedy Mr Men and Little Miss favourite poems alongside passages A Daddy for Valentines from the Old Testament and Shakespeare which with his own thoughts interspersed give proof to the wonderful epigraph by Oscar Wilde That is what the highest criticism really is the record of one s own soul Written over six years we watch as Bloom s body inevitably declines and urgently we watch as he monthly says goodbye to his Nightswimming friends and colleagues of many decades he has indeed entered the elegy season I must confess that much of Bloom s thoughts on writing are beyond my understanding but I learned much Beyond Biocentrism Rethinking Time Space Consciousness and the Illusion of Death from the still active professor this is a dense yet rewarding read Note I read an ARC and passages uoted may not be in their Pinned final Sooner or Later You Wont Resist Me (Sooner Or Later, forms I am aware that some readers may turn away Haduh aku di follow from Possessed by Memory because what they regard as heretical or at least esoteric distracts Fragile Lives from the reading of poetry I address not them but those who yearn Africana Womanist Literary Theory for what I would term a Shakespearean reading of the best poetry made available to us here in our Evening Land of the tradition sparked by Homer and Isaiah That tradition is dying As a literary and religious critic I wish to rally a saving remnant I am enthralled by the image of the insomniac Bloom reciting long stretches of by heart epics and poems to himself in the middle of the night I remember having to memorise a handful of shortish poems while in school and they are lost to me now In a society that seems to be ever turning away Poems in Which You Die from our cultural Africana Womanism Race Gender in the Presidential Candidacy of Barack Obama foundations I can relate to Bloom s urge to rally a saving Finding Your Voice A Woman's Guide to Using Self Talk for Fulfilling Relationships Work and Life fragment However because my education was not steeped in poetry and psalms I couldn t always make the intertextual or exegetical connections that Bloom seems to take Mogorva nyár Halkirálynő for granted with his readers I can only take it as given as Bloom relates one poem to another links one poet to the next as he so often does A lifelong brooder on the problems of poetic influence I have learned that one ultimate canonical test Sutra Ungu for poetic magnitude is provided by the sublime progeny a poet engenders By that test Wordsworth William Blake Shelley and John Keats can be awarded the palm over Byron Each of them lived on in the cavalcade of Anglo American poetry যত কান্ড কাঠমান্ডুতে from Tennyson and Browning through Whitman and Emily Dickinson on to Thomas Hardy D H Lawrence William Butler Yeats Wallace Stevens Robert Frost T S Eliot and Hart Crane I can think only of early Auden as a poet who attempted to carry on Byron s legacy with indifferent success And I am even lost when Bloom speaks in the jargon of poetry The transcendental impulse that powers Shelley s Pindaric Lady First flights is not alien to Keats yet he turns away Guérir son enfant intérieur flux and change over Platonic yearnings Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats: with illustrations by Rebecca Ashdown (Faber Children's Classics) for a premature Eternity And if I may be permitted a minor complaint on Darkest Mercy format Possessed by Memory often reads like a collection of essays instead of one linked work Not only could I not really see an overall theme other than an aged Bloom sharing whatever poemshigh prose he Cold Hearted Rake felt like writing about but many definitive statements were repeated throughout the essays each time as though Alban Berg A Guide to Research Composer Resource Manuals for the Trying to Save Piggy Sneed first time that Johnson had inherited The Culture of Homelessness from Pope a distrust of the Sublime or that Blake like Milton was a sect of one or that Tennyson knew the uantity of every English word except Callings for scissors or that Whitman writes as though he is ahead of us and waiting Me and My Sisters Devlin Sisters for the reader to catch up But who am I to criticise the criticFor the most part this is a collection of other peoples mostly Western white males writing Bloom s own thoughts take up not much space at all However I will put here some of what I The Resume Design Book found most intriguing Since childhood I have meditated upon this agon of Israel with the Angel of Death I interpret it not only as an allegory of Jewish history indeed of universal history but also as the story of my own life and the lives of everyone I have known loved taught and mourned In the half light of my incessant nocturnal wakefulness I begin to conceive of it as the struggle of every solitary deep reader to London find in the highest literature what will suffice From childhood through old age I have been made uncomfortable by a God who demands sacrifices that are also thanksgivings Post Holocaust this will not work Prelude to Foundation for many among us and I The Life List freuently retreat The Toy Box from the Psalms to the poetry of Paul Celan which has a difficult rightness and does not seek to praise what can no longer be praised My religion is the appreciation of high literature Shakespeare is the summit Revelation Cliffs of Opal for me is Shakespearean or nothing The deepest lesson I have learned Den grænseløse from Johnson is that any authority of criticism as a literary genre must depend on the human wisdom of the critic and not upon the wrongness or rightness of either theory or praxis Now almost all of my Winter Holiday Godine Storyteller friends among the poets and critics of my generation have departed Mourning Fools for so many men and women does not diffuse an individual grief yet makes it seem less urgent I have no doubt that Possessed by Memory will be of most interest to those who better speak Bloom s language but I Wicked Whispers found many points of connection here myself most especially when Bloom was writing intimately of his decline and his losses In its way it s a perfectly Boundless Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage fitting memoir the capstone of a deep reader s life

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Possessed by Memory

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 A memoir in the form of commentary on great classic poems and contemporary poems by people Bloom knew I wish he did this for novelists too but this is uite good El Gaucho Martín FierroLa vuelta de Martín Fierro friends in my generation have departed Their voices are still in my ears I Fragonard Art and Eroticism find that they are woven into what I read I listen not only Mao Zedong for their voices but also The Monarchs Are Missing for the voice I heard before the world was made My other concern is religious in the widest sense For me poetry and spirituality Touchstone 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 A memoir in the Chocolate Candy Always Melts In The Sun Poems AboutLove betrayal anger struggle and understanding form of commentary on great classic poems and contemporary poems by people Bloom knew I wish he did this Love is Blind for novelists too but this is uite good

FREE READ É SABLEYES.CO.UK ó Harold Bloom

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 Del Schwartz and Amy Clampitt; Blake to Wallace Stevens and so much And 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 thingsAs Bloom writes movingly One of my concerns throughout Possessed by Memory is with the Possibly my favorite Bloom book this one seems to encompass the works he found most inspiring There is a lot of esoterica here especially Hermeticism hermeneutics gnosticism etc I feel like this is a book at the top of his mountain and one you should read after many of his other great works for the best payoff RIP No one like Bloom


10 thoughts on “Possessed by Memory

  1. says:

    This book is reverie and not argument My title is the book in a single phrase What is it to be “possessed by memory” How does possession differ in these to possess dead or lost friends and lovers or to possess poetry and heightened prose by memory Nearing ninety legendary critic Harold Bloom has assembled in Possessed by Memory a sort of

  2. says:

    My introduction to Harold Bloom was his Anxiety of Influence which I read over 30 years ago I still have my original hardcover though it is not a reference book; like something to hang onto because you found it intriguing like a colorful shel

  3. says:

    Beautiful A personal work filled with final observations of a lifetime of reading I learned a lot from Bloom's influences

  4. says:

    This is a moving book to read some six months after Bloom's death not because what he writes is new but because its elegiac cast I would have enjoyed a straightforward memoir of Bloom's inner intellectual and 'spiritual' d

  5. says:

    I remember walking into a bookstore last April and seeing this heavy book displayed on the countertop 'Dear God

  6. says:

    Possibly my favorite Bloom book this one seems to encompass the works he found most inspiring There is a lot of esoterica here especi

  7. says:

    Eurocentric literariness at its best

  8. says:

    A memoir in the form of commentary on great classic poems and contemporary poems by people Bloom knew I wish he did this for novelists too but this is uite good

  9. says:

    Normally I love his insight ‘s but not this time This is a reflection on me than the author

  10. says:

    Bloom in his late 80s musing on poetry He is at his best with Shakespeare

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