"Instead of a reader who reads lovingly, with a kind of disinterest, we have tendentious reading, politicized reading," said the erudite, 64 year old literary critic Harold Bloom in an interview in The New York Times On The Web in 1994. We have readers, he might have gone on to say, who spend their lives endlessly acting as apologists for some intellectual, social, spiritual and/or philosophical commitment/position they have espoused at some time or other in the past.

Bloom, a man of encyclopedic intellect, exuberant eccentricity and whose love of literature serves for some as a joyous intoxicant, is now 75. He despises people who read literature or, indeed, any printed matter, for its moral or political orientation, its support for a position that defines, in part at least, their cosmology, their world view. This "rabblement of lemmings" includes leftward leaning Marxist critics, feminists, people with all sorts of axes to grind, indeed, anyone who reads literature in any of its multifarious genres, as a social document, who mix politics with literature or in any way dilute the primacy of its aesthetic function. Bloom also scorns critics on the right who argue for a classical literary canon, a roll call of Great Books that defines the Western tradition, in the name of patriotism, moral values, or some general social ameliorism. He dismisses the whole bunch with an air of haughty authority. In his damning judgement he says:"To read in the service of any ideology is not to read at all." Bloom would like to see America, indeed the world, with a spiritual life that is not identified with or rooted in organized religion.

For Bloom, the astonishing mystery of creative genius, its originality, its strangeness and idiosyncracy, lies at the root, the centre, of any civilization, of anything worthy of that name, of any true religion or literature. For him that genius is found among a very few, the great creators of literature of the Western canon. The introspective consciousness, free to contemplate itself and its world, remains for Bloom in the empyrean of all Western images. Without it the canon is not possible and, to put it most bluntly, neither are we. There is no method except yourself and the introspective consciousness, writes Bloom, and it is this that is at the core of life, of culture, of our spiritual autobiography, an autobiography which we can find in the Western intellectual, and especially its literary, tradition.-Ron Price with thanks to Adam Begley, “Colossus Among Critics: Harold Bloom,” September 25th 1994, The New York Times On The Web, August 8th 2005.

I, too, have a spiritual autobiography
going back to the Romans, the Greeks
and the Hebrews and an introspective
consciousness free to contemplate
itself and its world, dear Harold.
I’ve put it down on a thousand pages
in an idiosyncratic, strange, original form
which should keep most people away
from whatever creative genius
I might claim to possess.

I do not possess your encyclopedic intellect,
exuberant eccentricity, your massive love
of literature, nor your impressive credentials.
Your joyous intoxicant that your love is, Harold,
over four decades is gargantuan.
I have been part of that rabblement of lemmings.

Harold, our world will forever be based
on its literary canon: spiritual and secular,
the rich legacy of our past, the foundation
of our past, our present and our future world.

But the canon, Harold, has multipied,
expanded in our lifetime into a baffling,
a bewildering chaos of multiplicity,
of a burgeoning, an incomprehensible,
an irrelevant, an abstruse and a most
stimulating concatenation of print
that the wisdom of the wise
and the learning of the learned
have all failed to comprehend,
to account for what they cannot attain.

But we all can recount the tokens
of this glorious handiwork, however
inaccessible, unsearchable it may be
in its totality, unapproachable, and
seemingly free from the description
of any human being on this Earth.

Ron Price
August 8th 2005