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Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? Hardcover – October 7, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Emulating one of his favorite critics, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Bloom returns once more to sift through the Western canon, this time to discern and describe those writers whose brand of wisdom he holds in highest esteem. Beginning with Job and Ecclesiastes, and ranging from Plato, Homer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Johnson and Goethe to Emerson, Nietzsche, Freud and Proust, Bloom writes gracefully about each as he evaluates by comparison and teases out indicators of their subtle interrelationships. Into this highbrow brew he interjects a personal note, describing how he is writing in the aftermath of life-threatening illness and with a renewed sense of the preciousness of literature's great lessons. At the heart of Bloom's project is the ancient quarrel between "poetry" and "philosophy." In Bloom's opinion, we ought not have to choose between Homer and Plato; we can have both, as long as we recognize that poetry is superior. Bloom considers Cervantes and Shakespeare the masters of wisdom in modern literature, "equals of Ecclesiastes, and the Book of Job, of Homer and Plato." He justifies his tastes with close readings of King Lear and Macbeth that find a Shakespearean variety of nihilism, a form of wisdom Bloom identifies as central to the poetic tradition. In his intricate discussion of each great writer, Bloom offers the rich perceptions of a scholar drawing on the whole of a long and thoughtful career.
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From Booklist

Passionate and prolific literary critic Bloom grows more munificent in sharing his erudition and appreciation, discoveries, and opinions with each book. Here he confides that this exegesis of what he calls wisdom literature "rises out of personal need" in the wake of a nearly fatal illness. Bloom declares that he now has "only three criteria" for literature: "aesthetic splendor, intellectual power, and wisdom." Thus armed, he elaborates on each quality in close readings of his favorite wisdom writings. Bloom begins with Job, "one of the world's great poems, though complex and ambivalent," and "his personal favorite" book in the Bible, Ecclesiastes. Trailing piquant asides on the state of American society, Bloom moves on to Plato, Cervantes and Shakespeare, the wise essayists Montaigne and Francis Bacon, his hero Samuel Johnson and the "endless wonder" Goethe, Emerson and Nietzsche, Freud and Proust, and the Gospel of Thomas and St. Augustine. Bloom's immersion in and gratitude for these diverse and inexhaustible works will inspire readers to be on the lookout for wisdom in every work that speaks to them. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; 1st edition (October 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573222844
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573222846
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #615,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
To some degree Professor Harold Bloom has absorbed so much literature he has usurped it. He can read about five hundred pages per hour and when you consider the fact that he used to read one thousand pages per hour it is arguable that he has actually read more than any other human being in human history. The resources he brings to bear on his given subject matter in "Where Shall Wisdom Be Found" are enormous to the point of absurdity. But I am not convinced massive erudition alone makes for great literary criticism. The great writer G.K. Chesterton once boasted that he had read a thousand penny dreadfuls (as the trash novels of his time were called)and that he could describe the plot of any of them. The Great King Chesterton was never defeated. But it was not Chesterton's odd erudition that made him a formiddable critic and it is not Professor Bloom's erudition that has made him into something of a cultural hero to many. But the good Professor does have his flaws and in his instance perhaps they do come from his erudition.
For me (at any rate)the Professor's flaws as a writer have finally caught up with him. Since the wonderful shock of "The Western Canon" Bloom's prose has suffered from the constant repetition of a double or triple handful of ideas. We all know what they are - Shakespeare is the greatest writer ever; Shakespeare's only peers are Cervantes, Montaigne, etc.;the universities have collapsed and fallen into the hands of those scoundrels in the School of Resentment; reading is strictly a solitary activity; and so forth. The ideas have been recycled so often I have come to doubt each and every one of them merely on principal and to give myself a sense of relief.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a short but very interesting book. After reading it cover to cover, I went to a book store and looked at a few other books written by Bloom. I was thinking of buying "The Western Canon" from 1994. However, what I discovered was that the two books were very similar, i.e.: the present is a smaller version of the 1994 book with a different approach. If you have "The Western Canon" by Bloom, then I suggest that you skip the present book. If you have yet to buy a Bloom book, buy the 1994 book.

Okay, now back to the present book. The book is not about wisdom in a general sense but mainly religious wisdom. Bloom tells us that civilization has literature, philosophy, and science. But he does not want to consider wisdom from science. He says that he wants to exclude science and writers such as Darwin as an example. Secondly, he thinks that Plato has shown that philosophy and literature can mix, so he will seek his wisdom exclusively through great literature and religion.

From Bloom we learn that Plato wrote about Socrates after Socrates' death - and according to Bloom - after a while Plato injected an element of fiction into the writings. He realized that by quoting Socrates - using him as a protagonist in his fictional stories - he would me more credible as an author.

Bloom thinks that this situation is firmly part of our religious writings, because most writings, including the Bible were written after the fact, decades later and in Greek for the New Testament. One can make the case that the religious writers knowingly embellished stories and created fiction to make the Bible and other writings more effective as a tool in their work.

The title is a direct quote from the bible, Job 28:12: "But where is wisdom found?
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Format: Hardcover
Harold Bloom has so far as I know read more of the great Western tradition in Literature than any other person. I am no small reader myself, but beside Bloom my reading, my grasp of what I have read, my retention of what I have read, the connections I make with other works I have read, are small. Bloom is a great Genius of Reading, and in this book he reads Job and Ecclesiastes, Homer and Plato, Cervantes and Shakespeare, Montaigne and Francis Bacon, Samuel Johnson and Goethe, Emerson and Neitzche, Freud and Proust, The Gospel of Thomas, Saint Augustine( on reading). He reads the opposing pairs in his search , for what he regards as a fundamental goal of reading in general, the attainment of Wisdom.

Bloom is such a rich mind, so filled with the love of literature, that every page brings new insights and great quotations from classical works. He gives the sense in his writing and reading that the very involvement with these texts is a deep spiritual exercise, an art of self- development and perfection, a probing towards our own better selves. He does this however with a strangely competitive idea, one of his central critical ideas is that of great writers in struggle with their predecessors and contemporaries. In this book the pairs of each chapter are taken as opposing, and involved in an `agon' or struggle for precedence and preeminence. In his chapter on Homer and Plato he repeatedly emphasizes the effort of the Philosopher to displace the Poet. And in his chapter on Shakespeare he even goes so far as to make Shakespeare defeat all Philosophers in his achievement of Wisdom.

This `anxiety of influence' and ` agon ` aspect of Bloom I think of as a bit childish, and very American. Shakespeare is `number one' in Bloom's book of life.
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