Harold Bloom, one of the most popular and controversial critics in American literature, died Monday at age eighty-nine. He was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the author of more than forty books, including The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, and, most recently, Possessed by Memory: The Inward Light of Criticism. His Art of Criticism interview, which appeared in the Spring 1991 issue, is stacked with opinions on writers and their place in the canon. In Bloom’s view, Alice Walker is “an extremely inadequate writer,” John Updike is “a minor novelist with a major style,” and Saul Bellow is “an enormous pleasure but he does not make things difficult enough for himself or for us.”
Do you think that fiction—or poetry for that matter—could ever die out?
I’m reminded of that great trope of Stevens’s in “The Auroras of Autumn,” when he speaks of a “great shadow’s last embellishment.” There’s always a further embellishment. It looks like a last embellishment and then it turns out not to be—yet once more, and yet once more. One is always saying farewell to it, it is always saying farewell to itself, and then it perpetuates itself. One is always astonished and delighted.
Read his Art of Criticism interview here.