cover image Possessed by Memory: The Inward Light of Criticism

Possessed by Memory: The Inward Light of Criticism

Harold Bloom. Knopf, $35 (560p) ISBN 978-0-525-52088-7

Admirers of prolific polymath Bloom (Macbeth: A Dagger in the Mind) will treasure this assemblage of 76 pieces, ranging in length from brief reflections to full-length essays, and in genre from memoir to literary analysis. Bloom’s central interest—the role of influence in literary history—is highlighted in selections that showcase his deep immersion in canonical greats (Shakespeare, Milton ), Romantic-era poets (Byron, Keats, and Shelley), and the later Victorians (Browning and Tennyson), whom he sees as undervalued by recent criticism. Bloom also attends to American poets, including Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman, and longtime friend John Asberry, and religious writings, with character sketches of biblical figures such as Deborah, Moses, and Ruth and a meditation on the Kabbalah. Ample excerpts illustrate his assertions, such as that Edmund’s speech from King Lear on how “we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon and the stars” illustrates why the villainous character is nonetheless “surprisingly attractive” for his “candor and clarity.” However, general readers may find Bloom’s personal remarks most affecting, such as on how, while “nearing 88, I have to consider how little I know of time to come.” A rich lifetime of readership and scholarship can be found within the covers of this equally rich book. Agent: Glen Hartley and Lynn Chu, Writers’ Representatives. (Apr.)