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Rick's List — RIP Harold Bloom Edition

I was saddened this week at the passing of literary critic/Yale scholar Harold Bloom, whom I knew well.

Our cars happened to be idling next to one another on one of those pesky I-95 "coming back from the Cape" summer Sunday traffic jams where no one moves for minutes on end. Bloom glanced over, noted I was wearing a pullover rubber mask depicting an antlered deer-god of Nordic antiquity, and signaled for me to roll down my window.

He made a "Golden Bough" joke and we hit it off instantly, talking as we inched along the highway about his favorite Bachman-Turner Overdrive concerts. Turns out he loved most boogie rock in general. Odd. Then, as his exit drew nigh — he was getting off in Bridgeport to buy homemade insecticide from a man he called "Brother Andy" — we vowed to keep in touch.

Before long, I became a bit of an "assistant" to Bloomy (as he liked to be called). I translated two of his most notable works, "The Influence of Anxiety" and "Shakespeare and the Invention of the Human," into Danish and Cambodian, for example.

"Those are the languages I have the most trouble with. I hate glottalized consonants," Bloomy would sigh, sipping maple syrup, as always, from a plastic bottle shaped like a cubby bear.

But Bloomy enjoyed other aspects of linguistics and dreamed of writing what he called "THE freakin' end-all beach novel based around the panchronic study of aspirated fricatives." Sadly, he never got around to it. Sigh ...

Some of my favorite Bloomy moments:

1. We both got ankle tattoos that depicted Johnny Quest reading a paperback edition of Italo Calvino's "The Baron in the Trees."

2. In the original "Western Canon," Bloom included Franklin W. Dixon, American author of the Hardy Boys series. I had to break it to Bloom that Dixon wasn't real but rather a name used by a collective of authors cranking out the teen detective stories. Bloom removed Dixon from the list but stubbornly insisted the Hardys adventure "While the Clock Ticked" is one of the 10 best English language novels ever written.

3. Bloomy's favorite character ever was Shakespeare's Falstaff, about whom he wrote, "With the creation of Falstaff, Shakespeare discovered there were no limits to his art." That's actually MY line. Bloom's original: "With the creation of Falstaff, Shakespeare discovered there were no limits to writing fat jokes."

4. Bloom could quote Milton at length — and did so while walking across the Yale campus or to grocery store clerks who asked him to — but rhyme schemes in "The Cat in the Hat" puzzled him.

5. It surprised many that Bloom was not an atheist. In fact, he wrote extensively about religion and often speculated that Yahweh and Baron Samedi, the voodoo Lord of the Cemetery, were probably the same deity.

6. Bloom will be buried next to Franklin W. Dixon.


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