Harold Bloom, the author and America’s most “notorious literary critic,” as the New York Times obituary called him, died recently.
I discovered him in college as a student of the Great Books Colloquium at Pepperdine. He, with Mortimer Adler, were the titans of framing what to read in order to be “educated” and wise. As someone who did not grow up with a classical education, discovering these incredible minds and scholars was like taking off blinders.
Specifically, I became aware of his work “The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages.”
The thought that there was a standard set of books against which an educated mind could measure itself was fascinating to me. The 26 writers that Bloom elevates became my yardstick for learning and reading. I referred to his list many times.
Later I read his “Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds.” Taking a classical view of the Western Canon is sort of like establishing that Everest is the highest mountain—and that the Himalayas are a range of high mountains. Read what you want, but some books are better, just as some mountains are higher.
It still remains almost unimaginable that someone could read and understand so much — in such an encyclopedic way.
They broke the mold with this one.
Bloom’s was a life well-lived, and we are poorer for his passing.