THE ANATOMY OF INFLUENCE

LITERATURE AS A WAY OF LIFE

The distinguished critic again examines the interactions among writers that have been the main focus of his attention since The Anxiety of Influence (1973).

As in that seminal work, Bloom (Humanities and English/Yale Univ.; Fallen Angels, 2007, etc.) takes a decidedly Freudian view of literature, depicting each generation of artists struggling with the titans of the past to carve out their own place in the pantheon. Ranking matters to Bloom; it’s not enough to proclaim Beckett, Joyce, Proust and Kafka “the masters of prose fiction in the twentieth century”—they must be judged as “transcending” Thomas Mann, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. His audience is “those dissident readers who…instinctually reach out for quality in literature, disdaining the lemmings who devour J.K. Rowling and Stephen King as they race down the cliffs to intellectual suicide in the gray ocean of the internet.” Looking beyond sentences like that, and beyond Bloom’s trademark swipes at feminists and Marxists, readers (dissident or otherwise) will find his usual closely argued exegeses of the writers he loves—and that love goes a long way toward atoning for his aggressive contentiousness. He traces the poetic tradition stretching from Shakespeare through Shelley, Browning and Yeats to Walt Whitman, Bloom’s “American Homer,” whose epic presence shadows Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane and such contemporary poets as James Merrill and John Ashbery. Unsurprisingly, since Bloom prefers poetry “free of all history except literary biography,” he stresses existential themes: the nature of self, the soul’s quest for meaning, the omnipresence of death, our final destination. The octogenarian clearly has his legacy in mind as he strives to reject old charges of misogyny and exclusivity; he makes reference to his many Asian American students, and a few female names (Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop) have slipped into his references, if not his full-scale analyses. But we wouldn’t want Bloom to be anyone but Bloom: an old-fashioned literary critic passionately committed to art for art’s sake. An autumnal summing-up, winding through “the labyrinth of literary influence” to conclude, “[t]hat labyrinth is life itself.” 

 

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-300-16760-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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