GENIUS: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds

Harold Bloom, Author . Warner $35.95 (814p) ISBN 978-0-446-52717-0

With The Western Canon, Yale-based critical eminence Bloom tapped into a strain of the cultural zeitgeist looking for authoritative takes on what to read. Bloom here follows up with 6–10 pages each on 100 "geniuses" of literature (all deceased)—pointing to the major works, outlining the major achievements therein, showing us how to recognize them for ourselves. Despite the book's length, Bloom's mostly male geniuses are, as he notes "certainly not 'the top one hundred' in anyone's judgement, my own included. I wanted to write about these." Bloom backs up his choices with such effortless and engaging erudition that their idiosyncrasy and casualness become strengths. While organized under the rubric of the 10 Kabalistic Sefirot, "attributes at once of God and of Adam Kadmon or Divine Man, God's Image," Bloom's chosen figures are associated by his own brilliant (and sometimes jabbingly provocative) forms of attention, from a linkage of Dr. Johnson, Goethe and Freud to one of Dickens, Celan and Ellison (with a few others in between them). A pleasant surprise is the plethora of lesser-known Latin American authors, from Luz Vaz de Camões to José Maria Eça de Queiroz and Alejo Carpentier. Many familiar greats are here, too, as is a definition of genius. "This book is not a work of analysis or of close reading, but of surmise and juxtaposition," Bloom writes, and as such readers will find it appropriately enthusiastic and wild. (Oct. 22)

Forecast:With the dismantling of Oprah's Book Club, and none of the contenders stepping up convincingly, look for this book to fill the void, particularly as a gift book. A five-city East Coast tour will add some awareness, and national reviews will build on it, but getting the voluble Bloom on morning television and letting him riff would be the clincher.

Reviewed on: 08/12/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 814 pages - 978-0-446-69129-1
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