Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Thank You Harold, and other reflections on The Anxiety of Influence

Early in Illuminations on Market Street,  a young woman invites our protagonist back to her college dorm room and tells him  a story.

 ““I talked to a friend of mine at Wesleyan University,” the girl who had first run up to me announced. “She told me about Harold Bloom coming to the campus last week. He was early for the lecture he was going to be giving so he went for a meal at a breakfast place off the campus and ended up falling asleep. The waiter woke him up saying, ‘All right Mac, it’s time to pay up and get out of here! Let’s hit the road!’ With his hair all mangled on one side, Bloom took offense saying, ‘I am Harold Bloom.’ The waiter responded, ‘And I don’t care.’ Then Bloom says, ‘I am a preeminent literary critic.’ Isn’t that hilarious?” She mimicked, “I am a preeminent literary critic.” Blah blah blah... passing the time for something else which could only come once the time had passed. Soon everyone left for food at the coop and Zoe and I were on our own. I looked at her. “Do you give good back rubs?” she asked. I noticed how blue her eyes were. “Sure,” I said.”

The two characters chat about Kundera and feminism,
Hookups and college dating, 
Before having a go of it themselves.

Later in the story, Cab finds a closer connection with another young Vassar student,
He finds himself coming to grips with her reactionary whips and chains sort of way.
“We were full of conflicts and contradictions, on and off, connected and separated, west coast and east, Catholic or agnostic. At Thanksgiving, Chloe confessed she wanted to reembrace Catholicism. I had always loved the Madonna-whore thing she had going. But this was the first time I had seen her move back toward the other end of the pendulum.”
Later Chloe refers to a book by Harold Bloom:
“Have you read the Book of J?” she asked me, referring to a newly discovered book of the Old Testament which was all the literary rage. I hadn’t. And neither had she, but she was interested in exploring it. I was confused, but also intrigued, with her elusive ever-evolving self, and I was more attracted to her than ever.”

Two references to a literary critic I’d never read in my roman à clef.
That’s a lot of foreplay banter.
Whips and chains food for thought through the years.

We were all characters in this story.

Eros and Thanatos dancing throughout the years.
“Every poet begins (however 'unconsciously') by rebelling more strongly against the fear of death than all other men and women do,”

I always thought it was the coolest book title I’d ever read.
Your books and ideas pointed at something we could be:
“We read to find ourselves, more fully and more strangely than otherwise we could hope to find.”
he reminded us.
I found that space in the library digging through the stacks chasing that something that would be who I was.
You showed us that was ok,
Even when it wasn’t cool.
From Bronx Science to Yale to the NY Times,
You helped us ponder what it meant to read and think about it all.
Thanks for being a part of it all these years, even if we never really knew you.
Thanks for reminding us, it was ok to contemplate the space between poetry and the sublime. 

“It is hard to go on living without some hope of encountering the extraordinary.”
Harold Bloom

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