Harold Bloom

I don’t know if people have heard the news, but Bloom passed away yesterday. I don’t really know what to say about this, but here is a short Facebook post, with a link to a video I made this morning.

Hi Facebook,

A great literary critic, Harold Bloom, passed away yesterday. Most of my favorite poets came to me by way of Bloom - Wallace Stevens, Whitman, John Ashbery, Jay Wright, many others, too. There will probably be a lot of talk about him in some parts of the news and literary world in the coming days, and that’s great, but I wanted just to say that he had the power to reach people deeply - someone somewhere described it as his “intellectual charisma.” Harold Bloom was a genius. But he did not remain aloof from people. He wrote thousands of people back when they wrote him - his email was always in the public domain. He was not afraid to speak his mind, which is rarer nowadays, imo. And he did not stop teaching until literally a few days before his death. Bloom had certain quotes that he would say over and over again, as if chanting them to himself. One of my favorites was always from Pirkei Avoth, “The Sayings of the Fathers.” The quote was, “You are not free to complete the work, neither are you free to desist from it.” Bloom, even Bloom, could not complete the work. But he never for a moment desisted from it. Like the way he described the fruit of reading his favorite writers, from Hart Crane to Shakespeare, Bloom gave the reader something hard to describe, something he just called “more life.” He was called every name of the book - racist, homophobic, misogynist - yet these names said more about the people using then than Bloom, who was in reality none of these things whatsoever. He was not only an astoundingly original literary critic, but a wonderfully interesting religious critic. People would hate him for saying things like “Harry Potter is horribly written,” or “Stephen King” is an atrocious writer," but the sad truth is that he was right. And again, he was not afraid - to evaluate, to have high standards - cognitive, aesthetic, etc. I could write for a long time and never run out of things to say about Bloom, because he himself was a labyrinth, and our interpretations of him honestly say more about us than him, like all the great writers Bloom loved. Deeply funny, deeply sad, deeply moving, Harold Bloom profoundly changed and shaped my life, as he did many others in the U.S. and around the world. The video below is my infinitesimal way of saying thanks. May his memory be a blessing for all poets and readers anywhere, anywhen.


Now cracks a noble heart.—Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!—


Thank you for sharing this vulnerable tribute, Andrew, to a venerable man of letters.

May the sea keep his name. May we learn to read once more as children of the sea…


It says worlds to me that this particular obituary never made my Facebook feed or my Yahoo feed. In this particular case, I prefer to think of the example set for positive work rather than any more obvious warning or critique that might be drawn from it.