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 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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