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Ruin the Sacred Truths: Poetry & Belief from the Bible to the Present

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Harold Bloom surveys with majestic view the literature of the West from the Old Testament to Samuel Beckett. He provocatively rereads the Yahwist (or J) writer, Jeremiah, Job, Jonah, the Iliad, the Aeneid, Dante's Divine Comedy, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, the Henry IV plays, Paradise Lost, Blake's Milton, Wordsworth's Prelude, and works by Freud, Kafka, and Beckett. In so Harold Bloom surveys with majestic view the literature of the West from the Old Testament to Samuel Beckett. He provocatively rereads the Yahwist (or J) writer, Jeremiah, Job, Jonah, the Iliad, the Aeneid, Dante's Divine Comedy, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, the Henry IV plays, Paradise Lost, Blake's Milton, Wordsworth's Prelude, and works by Freud, Kafka, and Beckett. In so doing, he uncovers the truth that all our attempts to call any strong work more sacred than another are merely political and social formulations. This is criticism at its best.


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Harold Bloom surveys with majestic view the literature of the West from the Old Testament to Samuel Beckett. He provocatively rereads the Yahwist (or J) writer, Jeremiah, Job, Jonah, the Iliad, the Aeneid, Dante's Divine Comedy, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, the Henry IV plays, Paradise Lost, Blake's Milton, Wordsworth's Prelude, and works by Freud, Kafka, and Beckett. In so Harold Bloom surveys with majestic view the literature of the West from the Old Testament to Samuel Beckett. He provocatively rereads the Yahwist (or J) writer, Jeremiah, Job, Jonah, the Iliad, the Aeneid, Dante's Divine Comedy, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, the Henry IV plays, Paradise Lost, Blake's Milton, Wordsworth's Prelude, and works by Freud, Kafka, and Beckett. In so doing, he uncovers the truth that all our attempts to call any strong work more sacred than another are merely political and social formulations. This is criticism at its best.

30 review for Ruin the Sacred Truths: Poetry & Belief from the Bible to the Present

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cymru Roberts

    Ruin the Sacred Truths sits equidistant between Bloom’s trademark theory The Anxiety of Influence and his self-described more exoteric works beginning with The Western Canon. While Ruin is firmly entrenched in the esoteric (which I’ll briefly summarize as a level of criticism so far beyond – or beneath – a mere study of plot devices and style that a Bloomian reading of any particular author becomes akin to reading philosophy), we can see the beginnings of Bloom heading toward the more mainstream Ruin the Sacred Truths sits equidistant between Bloom’s trademark theory The Anxiety of Influence and his self-described more exoteric works beginning with The Western Canon. While Ruin is firmly entrenched in the esoteric (which I’ll briefly summarize as a level of criticism so far beyond – or beneath – a mere study of plot devices and style that a Bloomian reading of any particular author becomes akin to reading philosophy), we can see the beginnings of Bloom heading toward the more mainstream and accessible works of the 90s. (I say mainstream and accessible with a hint of sarcasm, but without pretension: To read Bloom with any level of seriousness one must have read the books he speaks of thoroughly; I only claim to have some apprehension in this way of the authors I’ve read and enjoyed most.) The Hebrew Bible, Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Freud and Kafka are the principle characters in this study. I’ve read all of them, but with an incompleteness that is almost embarrassing to admit. I must say for writers like Freud and Kafka that can be dauntingly opaque, whose worlds are often tortuous and brutally dense, Bloom’s analysis can serve as a gateway, or at the very least an explanation of why they should be read instead of avoided. He sees things in them that one must constantly wonder as to whether the authors themselves intended or saw, and it is this trait, among many others, that makes Bloom so fascinating. I can understand why some readers are instantly turned off by Bloom too; he makes no attempt to explain these occurrences in terms of a preface, as if he is writing as fast as he can and has no time to explain himself thus. Countless allusions to authors, scholars, and terms (“normative Judaism” for example) are dealt with at length without prior explanation. I’ve seen readers quibble that Bloom doesn’t cite enough examples of what he exegizes, which is wholly incorrect. It’s the era of Google people, if you don’t know something, look it up. I’ll end with a couple takeaways. Bloom likens the poetic drive in writers to the Eros and Thanatos drives, or the Love and Death drives that Freud speaks of (apparently, again I haven’t delved into Freud hardly at all, and what I have read has been punishing). Bloom says the poetic drive is rooted in ambivalence, which he describes as the inherently paradoxical, and goes on to say it is as primordial as our need to love and our longing for death. This is a significant insight if one chooses to believe it. The idea that our greatest writers (and even the worst) have an unconscious need to describe the paradoxical I find very exciting. I believe Bloom when he says that, intuitively. It is those kinds of agreements, the ones I feel physically that have been the hallmarks of my reading experiences with all of my personal favorites, McCarthy, Bolaño, Homer, Sophocles. This idea alone makes the book for me. Elsewhere, Bloom’s use of Gnosticism as a framework for interpretation is interesting and informative. Briefly, the gnostic world, the physical world we live in, is one created out of the abyss and ruled over by the Demiurge, a kind of evil God. Our attempts to unite the spark of godliness in each of us with the Creator, an alien spirit infinitely far away in space and time and indifferent to good and evil, are met with resistance by Archons, demons that imprison our truest selves the way Freud’s drives do. In light of this, the works of Kafka and Beckett become more comprehensible, and in Bloom’s use of this trope he has given us a startlingly clear map of an incomprehensible labyrinth.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Adelina

    Uma leitura verdadeiramente interessante que põe em perspetiva obras universais. Leitura algo densa mas que não deixa de surpreender e atrair.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kent Winward

    I had a friend tell me to be leery of people like Harold Bloom -- so intelligent, such a broad ranging intellect and holding a comprehensive vision of the world, that their ideas and philosophies are intoxicating and easily subsumed even when they are incorrect. With that caveat, Bloom's criticism is stunning, thought provoking and pushes you into areas you would have never considered, such as Dante as the representative of Catholicism, Milton of Protestantism and Kafka for the Jews. Yet Kafka wa I had a friend tell me to be leery of people like Harold Bloom -- so intelligent, such a broad ranging intellect and holding a comprehensive vision of the world, that their ideas and philosophies are intoxicating and easily subsumed even when they are incorrect. With that caveat, Bloom's criticism is stunning, thought provoking and pushes you into areas you would have never considered, such as Dante as the representative of Catholicism, Milton of Protestantism and Kafka for the Jews. Yet Kafka wasn't a poet. Bloom makes a nice review of the Western Canon from J to Beckett, via Freud. Be awed, be impressed, but don't completely swallow everything.

  4. 5 out of 5

    محمد

    أخذت ما أريده منه. إن هارولد بلوم ملحاظ.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charles Carter

    This is a hit-and-miss book. On the hit spectrum is the author and his style, absolutely genius. There's also a lot to be gained from the content within the book, however this is where the hits and the misses begin to merge (or blur). This is a hit-and-miss book. On the hit spectrum is the author and his style, absolutely genius. There's also a lot to be gained from the content within the book, however this is where the hits and the misses begin to merge (or blur).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Harold Bloom being Harold Bloom. Enjoy it for what it is.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dean

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Pridham

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jim Howell

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lera Auerbach

  11. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Cox

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Iparraguirre

  15. 4 out of 5

    Phil

  16. 4 out of 5

    Roger

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shane

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tim Donaldson

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karen Martin

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ben Jones

  23. 4 out of 5

    Luís Nunes

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jury Razumau

  25. 5 out of 5

    David

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mihai Zodian

  27. 4 out of 5

    Luke

  28. 4 out of 5

    OTIS

  29. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Filitsa

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