free speech & snobbery

Harold Bloom is a Very Big Name in literary circles, and a man of strong opinions. This is what he told the New York Times when the National Book Foundation gave the most prestigious award it has to offer to Stephen King:

“He is a man who writes what used to be called penny dreadfuls…That they could believe that there is any literary value there or any aesthetic accomplishment or signs of an inventive human intelligence is simply a testimony to their own idiocy.”

This kind of thing makes me (1) mad; (2) melancholy; (3) really glad I got out of academia. Do I think King is the best writer ever? No. Does he understand how to tell a story? Yes. Has he made a significant mark on American literature of the present day? Absolutely. Does he deserve this award?

There’s the issue, and here’s my answer: I don’t know. It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought, mostly because my opinion doesn’t really matter on this. What I do know is, Harold Bloom epitomizes what bothers me about the literary elite, so ready to get out knives and cattle prods and go to work. I would bet that Harold Bloom has never read Stephen King. I certainly wonder how he defines ‘inventiveness’.

At any rate, the reason I got into this was, I wanted to point you to a very good essay by Steve Almond on this Bloom on King business: The Bloom is Off the Mark. I don’t agree with every premise, but I think he nails Bloom quite nicely. On the same site there’s Almond’s excellent piece on blurbs.

While you’re over there, have a look around MobyLives. It’s an interesting place and you might want to visit Steve Almond’s webpage too.