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In Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? Harold Bloom writes of several renowned authors who have influenced his particular kind of wisdom. All are contributors to the Western canon Bloom has come to espouse, though a few are not so well recognized now. Whether Bloom has culled his wisdom from these authors or respects them for their reflection of his own is questionable; he has the hutzpah that it might be the latter. He writes that this book, this line of thinking on wisdom, was inspired by a life-threatening illness, so it is personal as much as academic. It is only near the closing that he defines his wisdom, after pulling extracts and conclusions from authors that include the author of Ecclesiastes, Plato, Augustine, the greatest thinker Shakespeare, Cervantes, Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Samuel Johnson, Emerson, Nietzsche, and Freud. Bloom?s wisdom is ?a secular wisdom fused with a purely aesthetic experience at once freely hedonistic and cognitively strong? (278).
Observing such literary icons means the book is a very general overview. One or two books by each author is mentioned; there are no citations. Some of Bloom?s statements are abstractions drawn from several works or a life?s work by an author, made from Bloom?s voluminous reading, and so can be difficult to understand unless you?ve read the same volume. Still, if you like books on Great Books, this satisfies. If you have an interest in Bloom?s personal picks, such as the rather surprising choice of Samuel Johnson as the ideal literary critic, then this is a good book.
Publishers Weekly, 2004-08-30 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. Agents, Glen Hartley and Lynn Chu. (Oct. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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