Friday, August 18, 2006

Bloom

















Y
ou know, I'm tired of being tarred. I've been voting for Democrats for president or for socialists, when I could find them, for--let's see, I started when I was 18. I mean, here, I've been voting for 52 years, and I've never voted for a Republican for dogcatcher, and I wouldn't start now. I forgive all the Republicans out there, or let them forgive me.

I'm not a conservative. I'm anything but a conservative.
I think that the United States has been almost destroyed by Ronald Reagan and his legacy. He came into office that charming, smiling fellow, and he assured us we could all emancipate our selfishness, and that is what we have proceeded to do on a national level. And I think we have done terrible things to the poorer people in this country. And Mr. Clinton, whom I voted for twice, nevertheless, signed the welfare bill and put five million more children under the poverty line. Let it be said in his defense that I gather he has done everything he could to partly make up for this, you know, as best he could. But, still, I am not happy with him.

No, I don't think this is a political difference. I don't
even think this is a cultural difference because I don't think there can be cultural differences in that sense. It's an intellectual difference and an aesthetic difference, and though I hate to use the term because it can so easily be misconstrued in a religion-mad country like the United States, it ultimately has to be a spiritual difference. Either you believe that reading and teaching and thinking about the best that has been thought and written and said matters and does everyone a great deal of good, or you do not. And most of these people now in the university, and certainly these people in the media and The New York Times don't believe that at all. Either you believe that--you know, what has it got to do with politics?

Leon Trotsky, who was a great, though murderous, human
being, but a remarkable writer. And in his own way, a remarkable literary critic. He wrote quite a book called "Literature and Revolution," which I frequently cite against the politically correct and the school of resentment because in it, he--he addresses himself to the revolutionary or Marxist writer and he says, `Take Dante for your textbook.' And he is quite right. Indeed, whatever your politics are, whatever your aspirations are, take Dante for you textbook, take Shakespeare for your textbook, take Cervantes or Chaucer or Homer or, indeed, the Bible, not as fundamentalists read it, but as we ought to read it.

Take, indeed,
the best that has been written for your textbook, and educate yourself from it. I begin this book by saying, `Information is readily available to us. Where shall wisdom be found?' And the answer, `It is to be found where it was always to be found, in--in the greatest minds and the greatest writers. And they are usually the same--the same.' You know, it is to be found in Shakespeare and Milton. It is to be found in William Blake. It is to be found in Dante. It is to be found in Cervantes. I wouldn't mind so-called multiculturalism at all, if, say, for Hispanic purposes, they were to replace Shakespeare even by Cervantes. I would say, `Fine. I have no quarrel with this. Cervantes is an almost equal eminence. "La Quijote" and the other writings of Cervantes also touch the limits of human art and of human thought. If you wish Hispanic multiculturalism, let them read Cervantes. But let them not read mediocrity. Let them not read bad writing. Let them not read ill-thought matters, simply because they are written by contemporary members of a particular, as we call it, ethnic group.

To balkanize the study of literature, indeed the study of all the
arts, as we have now done in the universities and the colleges, is fatal. It will not make us a better country; it will make us a worse country. It will finally balkanize us as a nation, and we have enough troubles without that.

-
Harold Bloom (Interview on C-Span's "Booknotes"6/28/00)

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