“Democracy, whether in Sweden or the United States, depends on the voter’s capacity to think. If you have read the best of what has been thought and said, then your cognition and understanding is on a much higher level than if you have read Harry Potter or Stephen King. So what this decline into half-literature and mediocre media really means is de facto a self-destruction of democracy.” (January 12, 2008)
Don’t worry. Harry’s brain is so powerful, his hair will brush itself.
Harold Bloom is an incredibly smart guy. Certainly one of the most well-read, most erudite, most academic of American intellectuals. He’s also the grown-up version of that kid we all went to high school with who used big words in class ostentatiously and at every available opportunity, made smugly pejorative remarks about sports, and trumpeted his ignorance of popular culture so that the rest of us knew he had no interest in paying attention to the same books, movies, and music as the rest of us rabble, and wore that ignorance like a badge of honor. This kid, if there is any justice, spent a goodly portion of high school with his head in the toilet.
Bloom has long had his ivy-covered knives out for Stephen King. He had a memorable freak-out in 2003, when the National Book Foundation bestowed upon King their award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters:
“The decision to give the National Book Foundation’s annual award for “distinguished contribution” to Stephen King is extraordinary, another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life. I’ve described King in the past as a writer of penny dreadfuls, but perhaps even that is too kind. He shares nothing with Edgar Allan Poe. What he is is an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis. The publishing industry has stooped terribly low to bestow on King a lifetime award that has previously gone to the novelists Saul Bellow and Philip Roth and to playwright Arthur Miller. By awarding it to King they recognize nothing but the commercial value of his books, which sell in the millions but do little more for humanity than keep the publishing world afloat. If this is going to be the criterion in the future, then perhaps next year the committee should give its award for distinguished contribution to Danielle Steel, and surely the Nobel Prize for literature should go to J.K. Rowling.”
I suppose its telling that a guy who breathes nothing but the rarified intellectual air that Bloom does (he is a Humanities professor at Yale University), can’t stop sniping at a guy like King, who swims in decidedly different cultural waters. Popping up when his nemesis gets a major award is one thing, but doing a random drive-by in an interview 5 years later positively defines pathetic. Especially when you consider Bloom excels at writing about great writers, but his own writing is boring as hell:
“The second, and I think this is the much more overt and I think it is the main cause, I have been increasingly demonstrating or trying to demonstrate that every possible stance a critic, a scholar, a teacher can take towards a poem is itself inevitably and necessarily poetic.”
Ick. Here you go, Harold.
“What do you think? You get social or academic brownie points for deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture? Never in life, as Capt. Lucky Jack Aubrey would say.” (Stephen King, National Book Foundation acceptance speech)