Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bloom's oddities

Some random observations on Bloom's book:

  • 1994 Esquire article "278 books you should have read by now" included just the USA/ChaoticAge choices
  • he accidentally omits Freud from the long list
  • he shortchanges modern British fiction
  • his fiction choices would be wholly uncontroversial to the editors of the New York Times Book Review (ie, timid/safe)
  • the long list seems hastily patchworked from multiple sources
  • he claims not to have bowed to political correctness/affirmative action, but the list says different

Theocratic/Aristocratic/Democratic/prewar Chaotic

For comments on Bloom's earlier choices

Canon criteria

Harold Bloom: strangeness, originality, authority, esthetic value, inventive troping

Mortimer Adler: contemporary significance, re-readability, conversational breadth (touching 25 or more of the Great Ideas)

Allan Bloom: assists rational quest for the good life according to nature, examples of high human types, discovery of diversity, develops capacity to experience beauty, civilisation's ongoing discourse

Jorn Barger: which you'd recommend be read first, to an eager learner

Bloom's inclusions

These are novels Bloom included that he probably shouldn't have. They ought to be arranged according to reader rankings from least includable to most includable. You can post your votes for which should be higher on the list (kick them off), and which lower (keep them). Save your reasons for the author's page.

Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago
John Cheever, Bullet Park
Peter Carey, Illywhacker
Joseph Conrad, Victory

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bloom's omissions

Ideally, this list should be ranked by readers' ratings, best first. To simulate this, you can post your own opinions of which should be higher on the list (ie, Bloom should have included them), and which lower (Bloom was right, they don't belong). Save your reasons for the author's page, though.

Richard Ellmann, James Joyce
James Joyce, Stephen Hero
Patrick O'Brian, Aubrey-Maturin series
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim
James Dickey, Deliverance
Graham Greene, A Burnt-out Case
John le Carre, Karla trilogy
JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins
Iris Murdoch, A Word Child
Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince
Iris Murdoch, The Sea, the Sea
Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities
Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
Vladimir Nabokov, Ada
EL Doctorow, Ragtime
Joseph McElroy, Lookout Cartridge
Joseph McElroy, Ancient History
Joseph McElroy, Plus
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead


Bloom chooses more poets than novelists, I think.

It would make more sense to list individual poems.

And he omits song lyrics: Dylan, Joni Mitchell.