Bloom wanders a bit, away from Yale into "the Evening Land" of America and its churches--and reconstructs a remarkable diagram of the religious imagination. As a literary critic, Bloom has shown an increasing fascination of late with scriptural texts and religious imagery (The Book of J, 1990;, Ruin the Sacred Truths, 1988). Here, he attempts to go one step further and provide an exegesis of the religions themselves, concentrating on those sects--Mormons, Shakers, Southern Baptists, etc.--whose origins are particularly rooted in American history and American patterns of thought. "No American," according to Bloom, "feels free if he is not alone, and no American ultimately concedes that he is part of nature." The resulting solitude of American life has given rise, as Bloom recounts, to a phenomenal array of "enthusiastic" cults, all of which purport to give the individual direct access to divine truth without the mediation of church or priest. Bloom is clearsighted enough to understand the ramifications of this, remarking quite rightly that in religious terms it amounts to a re-making of God in man's image--a process that turns every traditional Christian theology inside out. As a self-styled "Jewish Gnostic," Bloom celebrates this Promethean refashioning, but as a religious critic he is equally sensitive to the contradictions it engenders--particularly in the case of the Baptist fundamentalists. The political lessons that he extrapolates (mainly on the basis of the theistic rhetoric of the Republican Party) are not so clearly argued, however, and become annoying after a while. A great bolt of originality: Bloom manages to wade into a hopelessly overexplored territory and point out precisely those landmarks that everyone else has missed. Remarkable ideas remarkably set forth.