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Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds Paperback – 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With The Western Canon, Yale-based critical eminence Bloom tapped into a strain of the cultural zeitgeist looking for authoritative takes on what to read. Bloom here follows up with 6-10 pages each on 100 "geniuses" of literature (all deceased) pointing to the major works, outlining the major achievements therein, showing us how to recognize them for ourselves. Despite the book's length, Bloom's mostly male geniuses are, as he notes "certainly not `the top one hundred' in anyone's judgement, my own included. I wanted to write about these." Bloom backs up his choices with such effortless and engaging erudition that their idiosyncrasy and casualness become strengths. While organized under the rubric of the 10 Kabalistic Sefirot, "attributes at once of God and of Adam Kadmon or Divine Man, God's Image," Bloom's chosen figures are associated by his own brilliant (and sometimes jabbingly provocative) forms of attention, from a linkage of Dr. Johnson, Goethe and Freud to one of Dickens, Celan and Ellison (with a few others in between them). A pleasant surprise is the plethora of lesser-known Latin American authors, from Luz Vaz de Camoes to Jos‚ Maria E‡a de Queiroz and Alejo Carpentier. Many familiar greats are here, too, as is a definition of genius. "This book is not a work of analysis or of close reading, but of surmise and juxtaposition," Bloom writes, and as such readers will find it appropriately enthusiastic and wild.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Bloom, a distinguished and often controversial literary critic and best-selling author of numerous books about literature (e.g., How To Read and Why), explores the concept of literary genius through the ages by examining 100 writers. Aside from such "must includes" as Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Homer, Virgil, and Plato, Bloom offers some perhaps less well known to American readers, such as Lady Murasaki and Octavio Paz, acknowledging that his selections are idiosyncratic and were chosen because he wanted to write about certain authors, not because they were necessarily in "the top one hundred." In the introduction, Bloom posits a definition of genius that is fleshed out in his discussion of each writer. Authors are clustered into Lustres, or groups of five, while a brief introduction to each section explains why the writers in the section are associated with one another. (Each of the Lustres is based on one of the common names for the Kabbalistic Sefirot, which Bloom describes as representing God's creativity or genius.) Although the book is a delight to read, its real value lies in the author's ability to provoke the reader into thinking about literature, genius, and related topics. No similar work discusses literary genius in this way or covers this many writers. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
Shana C. Fair, Ohio Univ. Lib., Zanesville
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 814 pages
  • Publisher: Warner (2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446691291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446691291
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.6 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #881,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Harold Bloom is a Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University and a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard. His more than thirty books include The Best Poems of the English Language, The Art of Reading Poetry, and The Book of J. He is a MacArthur Prize Fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, including the Academy's Gold Medal for Belles Lettres and Criticism, the International Prize of Catalonia, and the Alfonso Reyes Prize of Mexico.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

108 of 114 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
At first I hated this book. I mean really hated it. I thought Bloom pretentious and insufferable as well as unbelievably facile and superficial. I would have given this book one star, at best. That's because I was hopscotching around. I started with writers and thinkers I knew and liked. I picked someone at the end of the book, then the middle, then back to the end, and then to the beginning. I found the book unbearable. Then I said, the guy can't be stupid; I must be doing this wrong. So I started at the beginning, and read all the way through. Good grief! What a difference. There's a theme, continuity, sense. Everything became clear. I learned things I never would have come upon on my own. Do yourselves a favor--here is the history of the literate world splayed open for you. Start at the beginning and you will learn things you never would have imagined. There IS genius. It is wonderful to behold. You will love this book and man and his thoughts if you give this book a chance. Of course there are lapses, and of course Bloom is prejudiced, bigoted, pompous and outrageous in his own way. So what! You don't think every great writer and thinker wasn't?
If you don't think Milton, Dante, Tolstoy, plus all the reglious thinks from Paul, Augustine and Mohammed weren't, then you seriously need to read this book. I think I learned more in this book than I did in 10 college courses.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on December 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Serious readers will imagine what fun it was for Bloom, compiling this celebration of (deceased) literary genius - reading and rereading, marveling at the passions, the artistry, and the jealousy and admiration they often felt for one another. Bloom, ("The Western Canon"), says his choices were "arbitrary." "These are certainly NOT `the top one hundred' in anyone's judgment, my own included. I wanted to write about these."
And write he does, with erudition, wit and verve. The most difficult thing about this book is the introduction, with its elaborate explanation of the book's structure, based on the Kabalistic "Sefirot," attributes of God and God's image, emanating out from an infinite center. Once embarked on the essays, Bloom's enthusiasm animates his scholarship. He begins with the "crown," five masters, "each of whom dominates his genre forever." These are Shakespeare, Cervantes, Montaigne, Milton and Tolstoy. The essays are short and tend to seize on one aspect, character or work to celebrate the whole. For Shakespeare it's Falstaff. "Does anyone else, in all of literature, enjoy what he is saying as much as Falstaff does?" And "All that Hamlet, Falstaff, and Cleopatra require of you is that you not bore them."
Bloom's writing is tart and barbed; he enjoys taking aim at his critics nearly as much as extolling his subjects. Perhaps it is partly to needle those who disdain his partiality for dead white males that he posits the Biblical writer J, or the Yahwist, (writer of parts of Genesis and Exodus) as a woman. He pokes fun at revisionists and deconstructionists, though he seldom wastes a full sentence on any of them. "In our increasingly virtual reality, three authors seem immune to the decline of authentic reading: Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By James B. Williams on June 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
At times this book is amusing, entertaining, sometimes even enlightening but most of all exasperating. Harold Bloom has spent half a century digging deep into the best that our literary culture has to offer, but all he has given us, once again, is another 800 pages of unedited notes. Each Genius is regrettably reduced to a few pages of off-hand comments and we have seen many of these comments too many times before in his books on the Western Canon and Shakespeare.
There is some humor and insight but for every insight we get thirty pages of unexplained marginalia like the following: "Negation of seeming realities in an ostensibly Christian society is the essence of Kierkegaard's genius, but this was an anxiety for him, since Kierkegaard had to be post-Hegelian, even as we have to be post-Freudian." This might make a great thesis statement for a long article (or even a book) but Bloom tosses it off like it is a self-evident truth that needs no further elaboration. I suspect it meant something interesting to Bloom, but it is lost on those mortals among us who cannot read his mind (and he complains about the obfuscation of the French!)
I guess if you are as well-established and respected as Harold Bloom then you no longer need to write books, you can merely publish them.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By on November 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Here is a book to launch an exploration of literature, to heighten the appreciation of great minds of Western civilization. Academics will be aggravated as usual by Bloom, his arrogant pronouncements, and his crowd-pleasing style. It must be so: in his sunset years Bloom is unrepentantly rebirthing himself as an intellectual Sir John Falstaff. And, Reader, if you will play young Prince Hal to Bloom's Sir John, you can enjoy his idiosyncratic hoodwinks and partake of his joie de vive!
If you are among the multitudes for whom life has sometimes been at its most glorious among the dead (i.e., authors) and the never-living (their eternal characters), you will revel in this vast lyrical volume. It is truly a poetical, not an analytic work (despite Bloom's employing an organizing principle of Kabbalistic schemata). A love poem, at that -- erotically charged with both the fleshly and the mystical -- and unconcerned with superficial hobgoblins of consistency. Bloom means to inspire, to provoke, to spur you to drink from these geniuses' original springs, and for vast numbers of readers who can overlook Sir Harold's foibles (or rejoice with them), he will succeed surpassingly.
One could wish the grace of more helpful editing had befallen the professor's final work and caught some of his contradictions and carelessnesses; he deserved to have an editor require better explication of his "definitions" and more follow-through on his arguments. But my sadness over the omission of such polishing strokes does not diminish my enthusiasm in recommending this volume to friends.
Contrary to impressions given by some introductory statements, Bloom's analytical arguments about Genius and its roles in the spiritual and intellectual evolution of humanity are NOT the life force of this work.
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