I am hopelessly obsessed with Harold Bloom, the literary critic. I’m equally amazed at his brilliance and irritated at his arrogance.
He despises the writing of J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and numerous other widely-read, mainstream authors.
He extols the writing of classic authors such as Proust, Faulkner, Joyce, and Shakespeare.
I admire Bloom’s unique perspective on literature and the long list of books that he has included in the Western Canon, but at the same time, I don’t quite see why he considers authors like Rowling and King to be inferior.
I suppose it’s because they just can’t write as well as Shakespeare. Nobody these days really can. It’s no lie that the art of reading for pleasure is dying out. Most everyone I know would rather turn on a television set or boot up their computer than sit down and immerse themselves in a book.
When people do read, it’s for pure pleasure. Books like what Rowling and King write are written for the enjoyment of readers, plain and simple. There’s no heavy intellectual message in those books (or books like them). There’s no scenes that are heavily thought-provoking. Those books are pure entertainment.
I get the feeling that what Bloom wants is for the reader to get a truth out of the work. The works of classic authors should be read multiple times for pleasure, knowledge about the human condition, and as a source of truth.
I don’t agree with Bloom’s opinion that authors like Rowling and King (who have sold millions of copies) “can’t write”. They write brilliantly, but for a different audience and for a different purpose.
Heavy works like War and Peace or The Sound and the Fury or In Search of Lost Time aren’t for everyone.
The Harry Potter series, the Twilight series, and many of King’s novels aren’t for everyone either. To each his own.
I believe that as long as there are good universities and good professors like Bloom who are willing to teach students how to read and appreciate the classics, that there will always be an audience for them.
Some say that the American university system isn’t reaching the high standards it could be aiming for. That’s a topic for another blog.
Have you ever read any of Harold Bloom’s books? What do you think of his opinions?