THE AMERICAN CANON

LITERARY GENIUS FROM EMERSON TO LE GUIN

An erudite tour of the American literary landscape from one of its most important observers.

A deep consideration of significant American writers, from Emerson to Pynchon.

For more than 50 years, Bloom (Humanities/Yale Univ.; Possessed by Memory: The Inward Light of Criticism, 2019, etc.) has produced incisive literary criticism, offering both close readings of writers’ works and their place in what he considers to be the American canon. Drawing from published volumes, several long out of print, and assorted other sources, Mikics (English/Univ. of Houston; Bellow’s People, 2016, etc.) gathers a sampling of Bloom’s essays on writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry to represent the scope and depth of the critic’s capacious interests. Organized chronologically by the writer’s birthdate, the collection begins with Emerson, whom Bloom considers “the inescapable theorist of all subsequent American writing. From his moment to ours, American authors either are in his tradition, or else in a counter-tradition originating in opposition to him.” Bloom is much focused on “the anxiety of influence” between one writer and another, a theme he explored in one of his early books, The Anxiety of Influence (1973), and which emerges throughout his criticism. Essays tend to focus on what Bloom considers a writer’s exemplary work rather than their entire oeuvre: The Portrait of a Lady dominates the essay on Henry James, whom Bloom deems the “subtlest of novelistic masters (excepting Proust).” He regards Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon a greater achievement than Beloved and The Great Gatsby more worthy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “canonical status” than “the seriously flawed Tender Is the Night.” Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts seems to Bloom a “remorseless masterpiece,” far above anything else West produced and surpassed only by Faulkner’s most well-known novels. Although he finds “West’s spirit” in some of Pynchon’s novels, “the negative sublimity of Miss Lonelyhearts proves to be beyond Pynchon’s reach, or perhaps his ambition.” Besides defending his own evaluations, Bloom sets his views alongside those of many major critics, including Lionel Trilling, Edmund Wilson, Nina Baym, Irving Howe, and Northrop Frye.

An erudite tour of the American literary landscape from one of its most important observers.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59853-640-9

Page Count: 500

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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