WHAT HAROLD BLOOM CAN TEACH GOD
*The joke goes,
Nietzsche: God is Dead.
God: Nietzsche is dead.
The full title of James Wood’s review of Harold Bloom’s latest book is What Harold Bloom Can Teach God: The Misreader
So “strength,” in Bloom’s vision, has always gone necessarily undefined, the more so as it has become his favorite approbation. Does it mean pragmatic success or aesthetic success? The Bible forces this question acutely on Bloom, and he ducks it. On the one hand, in pragmatic terms, the New Testament is the greatest “strong” misreading of a precursor text ever committed. On the other, it seems to Bloom a work palpably inferior to the Hebrew Bible. How, if this is the case, can it have been so successful? What can it mean to call it a “strong” misreading? Isn’t this the equivalent of Arnold displacing Keats in the canon?
The proper solution to this conundrum would be to admit that the Bible confounds the explanatory power of Bloom’s theory because aesthetics cede again and again to theology. Whatever reasons people over the centuries have had for worshipping Jesus rather than Yahweh, they have not been primarily aesthetic. Or more precisely, whatever the reasons the early Christians had for persevering with their Jewish heresy, they were not primarily aesthetic. “Strength” will have to mean a hundred things, few of them aesthetic. But this is what Bloom will not confess, because he sees the Bible, and especially Yahweh, only in aesthetic terms, as a great literary creation. So he blusters and throws insults instead.
After reading the review, I won’t be reading Bloom’s latest, Jesus and Yahweh (go ahead, I won’t be linking to it). Bloom loves the Book of Mormon and all things Gnostic. Wood addresses Gnosticism:
Gnosticism solves nothing–that the positing of a false God or Demiurge is quite obviously not a “solution” to the problem of evil, but merely a dualism that does no more than move the problem, so to speak, somewhere else on the board.
Wood sums up Bloom’s blinders in one sentence:
What a strange parochialism, that imagines everywhere only a literary mode of being!