“The great poems, plays, novels, stories teach us how to go on living. . . . Your own mistakes, accidents, failures at otherness beat you down. Rise up at dawn and read something that matters as soon as you can.” So Harold Bloom, the most famous literary critic of his generation, exhorts readers of his last book: one that praises the sustaining power of poetry.
“Passionate. . . . Perhaps Bloom’s most personal work, this is a fitting last testament to one of America’s leading twentieth-century literary minds.”―Publishers Weekly
“An extraordinary testimony to a long life spent in the company of poetry and an affecting last declaration of [Bloom’s] passionate and deeply unfashionable faith in the capacity of the imagination to make the world feel habitable”―Seamus Perry, Literary Review
“Reading, this stirring collection testifies, ‘helps in staying alive.’“―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
This dazzling celebration of the power of poetry to sublimate death―completed weeks before Harold Bloom died―shows how literature renews life amid what Milton called “a universe of death.” Bloom reads as a way of taking arms against the sea of life’s troubles, taking readers on a grand tour of the poetic voices that have haunted him through a lifetime of reading. “High literature,” he writes, “is a saving lie against time, loss of individuality, premature death.” In passages of breathtaking intimacy, we see him awake late at night, reciting lines from Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Montaigne, Blake, Wordsworth, Hart Crane, Jay Wright, and many others. He feels himself “edged by nothingness,” uncomprehending, but still sustained by reading. Generous and clear‑eyed, this is among Harold Bloom’s most ambitious and most moving books.