Here’s an interview I taped with Harold Bloom in 1994 after the publication of his book The Western Canon: The Books and Schools of the Ages. As with some earlier interviews I have posted here, this comes from a box of tapes in my basement, dating from a time when I produced a weekly radio interview show. I talked to Bloom shortly after the birth of my son Jonah (I mention thinking about The Western Canon while sleepily trying to find his mouth with a bottle) and I was tired and nervous, hence my annoying lisp in the opening sentences.
This is a fascinating and touching interview, which starts with a evocation of the “belatedness” of the Modern, the sense that we have come too late, that the great ones have preceded us. Bloom calls himself a “last stand aesthete,” “a solitary and passionate reader,” and castigates “the ideology of the camp of resentment, which is against imaginative art,” tracing it back not to Marx or Freud but to Plato’s argument against Homer. This was at the peak of the great ideological and canonical debates that swept English departments in the 80s and 90s, a debate that has somewhat died away (as have many English departments) in the aftermath (or afterthought). But Bloom’s easily-worn erudition and his love of books soon lead us to a less tendentious and more personal plane of discussion. We move on to the writer’s relationship to the canon, the idea of competition and contest in art, Nietzsche’s strong writer, and the role of misreading of the ancestor work in the creation of art. Bloom asks, “How, after all, does one become a good writer?” Then he answers the question. And he ends with a beautiful riff on what a reader/critic should ask of a text: not what did the writer hope to accomplish for himself or herself, but what he or she hoped to accomplish as a writer.
Interview with Harold Bloom Part I
Interview with Harold Bloom Part II