Harold Bloom and Potter, Again: 2005 interview and this month in Alibris Promotion

Here is something I found today while searching for the article mentioned in the questions in the post under this one. It’s from a rambling 2005 Eurozine interview with Harold Bloom, “Breakfast with Brontosaurus“:

IL: Your insistence on what you call higher culture makes many people mad, and when you talk about your dismay at the decline of the book as a cultural phenomenon, they say that never before in history have there been as many books and bookstores as now.

HB: I spend a good part of my life in bookstores – I give readings there when a new book of mine has come out, I go there to read or simply to browse. But the question is what do these immense mountains of books consist of? You know, child, my electronic mailbox overflowing with daily mesages from Potterites who still cannot forgive me for the article I published in Wall Street Journal more than a year ago, entitled “Can 35 Million Harry Potter Fans Be Wrong? – Yes!” These people claim that Harry Potter does great things for their children. I think they are deceiving themselves. I read the first book in the Potter series, the one that’s supposed to be the best. I was shocked. Every sentence there is a string of cliches, there are no characters – any one of them could be anyone else, they speak in each other’s voice, so one gets confused as to who is who.

IL: Yet the defenders of Harry Potter claim that these books get their children to read.

HB: But they don’t! Their eyes simply scan the page. Then they turn to the next page. Their minds are deadened by cliches. Nothing is required of them, absolutely nothing. Nothing happens to them. They are invited to avoid reality, to avoid the world and they are not invited to look inward, into themselves. But of course it is an exercise in futility to try to oppose Harry Potter.

HogPro note: Pardon me if you’ve seen this one before — especially if I posted it here! I find Bloom’s aversion to Harry Potter fascinating. Kevin Holtsberry (?) commented at the time:

[Bloom] has a point to a degree. But I lost all respect for Mr. Bloom, if I had any before, when he makes this statement [in the Eurozine interview]:

Of course, the United States is in a terrible condition, we have a kind of fascist regime here… I think it’s the real truth about it and you can quote me on that. A few years ago, when I was in Barcelona receiving the national prize of Catalonia, I remarked when somebody asked me a question about president George Bush: “He is semiliterate at best, to call him a Fascist would be to flatter him.” He has now sufficiently grown in depth that you are no longer flattering him by calling him a Fascist, it is simply a descriptive remark.

This is not the remark of an intelligent adult. It is only because language has become so degraded that we can use the word fascist to mean “a person whose politics I disagree with vehemently.” Is Bloom really comparing Bush to Mussolini? Bush may be bad in a myriad of ways but to describe him as fascist is to lose all sense of proportion and history. This heavily undermines Bloom’s credibility in my mind. He may know a great deal about Shakespeare but he obviously lacks a balanced sense of judgment.

HogPro aside: Could Bloom just have had too much to drink at his own Sherry party? And does he regret saying what he has and seeming a risible “Brontosaurus”? His “but of course it is an exercise in futility to try to oppose Harry Potter” can be read that way. Or it could be his affecting a heroic Swiss Guards posture….

I post this because I was just sent an email from an online used bookstore that joins Bloom and Potter. Alibris booksellers is doing a promotion this month called “Find Magic in Harry Books This Summer!” They’re offering Harry, Harriet, and Harold titles at special low prices — the new “Harry Bosch” detective story, McCullough’s biography of Harry Truman, Harriet the Spy, and, oh yeah,

The daring book of Harold
Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine
by Harold Bloom
Always bold and always challenging, celebrated literary critic and Yale professor Harold Bloom applies his prodigious learning and keen eye to this audacious and scholarly look at the biblical writings on two of its most central figures.

See all copies from $2.87!
See new only from $6.48!

What a delight that one of Bloom’s books is being pitched (and sold at discount) in a Harry Potter knock-off promotion. We live in a world beyond satire (almost).


  1. Trish wrote:

    Isn’t Harold Bloom the man who said, (I’m paraphrasing here) “It cannot be emphasized enough that Hamlet [the character] has no creed.” Indeed? If you read the play with that attitude you’ll get a completely skewed view of the melancholy Dane as modern-day sadist and cynic.
    So I don’t think he knows quite so much about Shakespeare, either.

  2. He really is the most pompous bloke I’ve ever read. Well, read, as in interviews–I’ve not read any of his books, and probably won’t, just based on his view of the world.

    I kept wondering just how old the interviewer was–with all the “my dear child” comments. It came across as very condescending, another way to elevate himself above the intellect of the interviewer and of the readers.

    And the last paragraph, where he talks about his religious beliefs, or more accurately, the lack of them–well, I find it quite disturbing that he is still teaching and having any influence at all over young minds. Some of his comments put me eerily in mind of Miss Jean Brodie, taking that young mind and making it hers.

    And his comments about Bush, who is my least favorite President and I can’t wait for him to be out of office, are horrible as well. Likening him to the fascists? What’s Bloom thinking when he says things like that? I tend to agree that we have gone round the twist on political correctness, but not in the way he presents it. I found many of his remarks, while he seemed to intend them to be complimentary, were really very rascist.

    Once again, his comments about Harry Potter really show that he is the one whose eyes just skimmed the pages. Even if he only read the first book, he should have found more in it than he did. Of course, Rowling is British, and he seems to have no use for any British authors, so I doubt that he took much time with it. It also sounds like a lot of sour grapes to me–he’s been translated into 17 languages, and Rowling has been translated into–how many is it now? And he gets several thousand emails about his books, mostly from people outside the US and Europe.

    I also think he’s largely missed the point with Shakespeare, whom he does like. It must be the part where some of the meaning of Shakespeare has to do with religious beliefs and Bloom doesn’t seem inclined to see it–the part at the end where he’s talking about his religious beliefs and he says:

    “On the other hand, my interests are far from what would be called religious, or rather I do not distinguish them from what I find in Shakespeare. So I find your question about my relationship with God almost imposible to answer. It’s like with that question about the Hamlet book: I feel that my consciousness breaks and I cannot get past a certain point. So I can just wave at you some quotes. For instance, if you, my dear, would cling to me in desperation and plead: “Is there really no hope at all?” I could cheer you up: Oh, yes, lots of hope – plenty of hope for God, just none for us.”

    Sad, sad man. What a hopeless view of life he has.

    To bring it back to Harry Potter, I suppose that it should not be a surprise that someone who has beliefs that are so lacking in hope would actually recognize all the hope that is in the HP books, even the first one. (And where did he get that bit that the first one was the best?)


  3. Travis Prinzi says

    I’m a little confused that Bloom keeps repeating the claim that Book 1 is “supposed to be the best.” From whom is he getting his info? What Harry Potter fan on the face of the planet thinks Book 1 is the best of the series?

  4. Arabella Figg says

    Oh, dear, people. The booboise simply can’t breathe the rarified air encapsulating this lettered man of sesquipedals and erudite annotations.

    From what I’ve read here, I can’t help but think of Percy Weasly, literature’s all-time self-promoting git. Bloom’s “when I was in Barcelona receiving the national prize of Catalonia” is priceless. Just couldn’t resist dropping that little, er, nugget upon the peasants, could he?

    We saw Ratatouille (fantastic) over the weekend, and if Bloom doesn’t, in person, sound just like Anton Ego, I’ll eat my chapeau. With haricots verts and a little Chardonnay, of course.

    After all, as I was telling the Queen the other day….oops, the kitties are laying on my engraved Latin translations of Shakespeare (hand-signed by the dear bard, that old dinkums)….

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