Monday, January 16, 2006

Not Wild About Harry

Okay, I will not keep you in suspense any longer. The article I read in the November/December issue of Pages that set me off was "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste" by Ellen Kanner. And it was about Harold Bloom, who gets an enormous amount of press for an academic and literary critic who has never made a movie or dated a starlet.

I am going to be up front with the information that I have never read anything by Bloom (though I may take a stab at How to Read and Why, since I've been reading How to Read a Book for six months now and would like to have something to look forward to when I finally finish it). I've only read about him. And I do wonder if the guy doesn't spout off the way he does just to get attention. If he does, it's working. I wrote about him twice back in 2003.

Nonetheless, whenever I see him quoted, all I can think is "Who died and left you boss?"

Kanner quotes him as saying "If you've read Shakespeare and Milton and so on, then you'll be able to think, but we are no longer a nation that reads...We read Harry Potter, if you call that reading, Stephen King, if you call that reading."

To the general public, Bloom is more well-known for hating Harry Potter and Stephen King than he is for anything else he's done.

Reading is an individual, personal, and highly democratic activity. I, for one, don't appreciate Professor High and Mighty telling me what I should and should not read. I don't even like Harry Potter. This crank makes me want to go out and reread the whole series.

"The deepest motive for reading has to be the quest for wisdom," he is quoted as having said in Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?. I totally disagree. The motive for reading doesn't have to be anything. Personally, I think we read because we are all looking for a feeling of community, we want to feel connected to others, authors who share our world views or address our problems and interests in some way. Wisdom might come, but as a result of having lived through the experience of reading, not because it was spoonfed to us by the Book Police who make sure we're reading the right books.

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