Harold Bloom Up Close

Harold Bloom was a superb literary critic, a singular classroom teacher, and a great force of personality. I’m lucky to have known him.

As a critic he possessed qualities rarely seen in conjunction. He had a superb memory and could quote page upon page of poetry fluently and accurately. He also seemed to recall every consequential moment he’d experienced in life, from his humble childhood in the Bronx to his fraught life in academe. (His story of his father, a member of the Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, giving him a small pair of shears when he was a child, directing him toward his likely career, stands out in my mind.)  Bloom’s superb memory is on display in his massive study Shakespeare, the Invention of the Human, which may be his best book. There he’s able to travel from one play to another, offering comparisons, making connections, as though all the dramas were alive simultaneously in his mind, composing one great work.