Monday, 7 December 2009
Thoroughly enjoying Harold Bloom's Omens of Millennium: the great literary critic is so much more enjoyable when not doing his tired 'Ain't it awful?' number, that is, when not writing about literature.
The book has his usual faults: it reads as though Bloom actually wrote a 50,000 word long essay and then left his put-upon research assistants to pad it out to book length. It is full of repetetion, often telling us the same thing twice in the course of five pages: that Elijah became the angel Sandalphon, for example, or that when the next 'authentic' American prophet comes to follow Joseph Smith, 'we will not recognise her (at least at first).' It has Bloom's bad habit of adding '-ism' to words to create unclear abstract nouns---'angelicism', for example----or using technical terms in non-technical ways; Nietzsche's 'perspectivism' is pressed into service to mean something like 'a vertiginous evocation of soaring height and plunging depth', and 'vitalism' is used to mean 'irrepressable vitality'. It has irritating tics like his dislike of Jung's thought ('a reductive cult'), which he clearly doesn't understand at all, and his ironic fondness for Mormonism. There is a strange sequence of pages in Chapter II ('DREAMS') in which the prose suddenly ceases to make sense, Bloom going incomprehensibly off on one for about 3,000 words. As I read it, I assumed I was failing to understand a word because I was drunk, before realising that I was, in fact, perfectly sober.
For all that, it's an enjoyable book, if you like delving into Kabbala, Sufism, Swedenborg and the like; full of incidental hermetic joys, its main interest for me was in listening to Bloom telling us a little about himself and his own ironic, neo-Gnostic religious sense, rather than talking his usual old bollocks about 'self-overhearing' in Shakespeare.