Things to do for free in Cambridge.

This evening, Wally and I went to a talk by Harold Bloom, sponsored by the Harvard Bookstore. I’ve not yet read any of Bloom’s (many) books, but hearing him read (and digress) from his latest, Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?, makes me want to. He’s a literary critic with a deep emotional attachment to his work, and an obvious and heartfelt love for the great works of Western literature. While I can imagine his devotion to a select few Great Authors can be frustrating (e.g. Joyce is close, but no cigar), it’s hard to fault a man who is so obviously and genuinely learned, and whose manner of speaking makes you want to run home and devour the nearest Shakespeare play with gusto. His love for Western civilization reminds me of Helprin’s — I get the feeling these two men would have much to agree on in terms of aesthetics, though, from the comments Bloom kept making on the recent election, their politics would most certainly clash.
Leaving the church, Wally mused that, while Bloom had cited Moby Dick and Leaves of Grass as the great American epics, even in such an ideal crowd, how many members of the audience had actually read those two works? It’s quite an indictment: Cambridge is clearly an intellectual city, but I’d bet that the room was more familiar with Chomsky than Melville. I’ll confess that I only made it halfway through Moby Dick one summer in high school (though I will point out that I picked it up of my own accord and not because of some school requirement — as though this makes any difference), and I’ve only read excerpts from Leaves of Grass (largely in articles and books on environmental history, conservation, landscape architecture, nature, the sublime, &c., and the obligatory references in American History texts). Of course, neither have I read Dante or Cervantes, a fact of which I am not proud. I wonder how much of this is due to my age (are people of my parents’ generation more likely to have read these works?) and how much of it is due to what I think Bloom may have been hinting at this evening (though not explicitly): these days, even the educated aren’t finding this wisdom. Perhaps that was Wally’s point, too. (The question then becomes: where are they going for it?)
In any event, he’s going on my to-read list.
[Update: Wally‘s got a post on this as well.]


6 thoughts on “Things to do for free in Cambridge.

  1. Bloom @ Harvard.

    Saw the Old Man, Harold Bloom, speak at Harvard tonight. (Aah, the joys of living in a major college town – all these great free talks that somehow I never go to. But tonight, tonight!) He’s not in good health

  2. I’ll put a stack together for you to cart off (and return!) — shall I bring them to you or would you prefer to pick and choose?

  3. Well…yah! doncha know …
    (I’ve put the stack together earlier today: if you DO prefer I carry it out, call tonight or tomorrow EARLY.)

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