I've been re-reading a favorite book, Harold Bloom's The Western Canon, a massive elegy for the sublime in literature. Its tone of defiance and celebration of great art, yelling like Lear at the overwhelming storm of dying standards and political correctness. has always brought great pleasure.
And I hated, as Bloom did, what he labeled "The School of Resentment" — literature critics with political agendas that trounce aesthetics. The late 80s and early 90s were overrun by the massive overshoot by multiculturalists who went beyond consideration and reflection on other cultures to a mad competitive rush to see who could be the most sensitive over the self-identified labels of the day (generally fine) and on behalf of categories they did not belong to (okay in theory, hideous in practice).
And among the things I enjoy now, 20 years later, is the world feels as if the School of Resentment has significantly faded. Gone is the Carry Nation prudery and groupthink of anti-sex writers like Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin. The feminist field is now as wide and diverse in approaches as it should be, given its constituents are more than half the population.
I credit this book for helping recover my love of reading after graduating college. Showing that it was important to read for reading's sake - as I'd spent the last several years reading in anticipation of quizzes and discussions and dissecting the works in graded essays and other projects. Harold Bloom and Camille Paglia helped me recover my ability to enjoy and seek out works for their ambition and their strangeness, and that I could fly by the nets of identity politics and engage with art of lasting merit.
But Bloom himself.
The videos I've seen of him have been of a man who probably looked 60 by his late 30s yet has held steady within his sturdy torso, resembling a bag of profound sighs (though he rarely sighs). A melodious, despairing, challenging voice that suits his authorial tone. He proclaims himself "Bloom Brontosaurus Bardolator" as a badge, a sense of resignation, and "a certain fury". He rarely looks at the interviewer or the camera. He obviously tasks his brain with searches and phrases too much for visual courtesies, though he is perfectly gracious in his words to people.
Naomi Wolf famously accused him of hitting on her while she was an undergraduate student at Yale. If true, doubtless a horrifying, macabre experience, and she's entitled to her rage at the unethical behavior. Yet his alleged line to her was so sublimely skeezy ("You have the aura of election upon you"), the dirty old woman/man part within us all can't help but feel a little moved.
But, all allegations, and who has NOT had a shady moment in the "Just trying to get laid" department?
Resolutely fond of him I will remain. Sorry for that Yoda syntax. I remain fond and grateful to the man.