bedside books

Novels and Novelist by Harold Bloom; his essay connecting Hemingway to Emerson, Whitman and Stevens, and to Pater’s theme that we have an interval  and then our place knows us no more, sums up why Hemingway’s stories and several novels are quintessentially American. Bloom writes judicial estimations of virtually all of the Western canon in this and another complementary volume.

Must We Mean What We Say by Stanley Cavell; his first book, written in a burst of manic philosophical  creativity shortly after his doctoral dissertation and before his  The Claim of Reason; his essay on Lear’s avoidance of love makes a nice bookend to Empson’s essay on Lear seen as renunciation of responsibility (see below). I like one review that said this work “reintroduced the book [literature] to philosophy.”

The Renaissance by Walter Pather; beautiful, well-carved prose in the service of the fully tasted, lived life through the prism of Europe’s intellectual and artistic flowering.

From the Land of Shadows by Clive James; I’m fascinated by his prosecutorial technique of finding a moral or intellectual opening and building the opposite case. The very high end of personal journalism/essays.

How the Swans Came to the Lake by Rick Fields; a history of Buddhism in America; affirms an Asiatic bedrock in American culture, especially as literary influence.

Pieces of My Mind by Frank Kermode; finely seasoned and reasoned literary essays.

Pleasing Myself by Frank Kermode; refreshing for nuanced judgment and lack of critical malice.

Emerson’s Fall by B. L. Packer; a dissection of the arc of Emerson’s heroic intellectual packaging of an American mind.

Back to the Sources edited by Harry W. Holtz; a thorough guide into the Kaballah, Talmud, Midrash, Hasidic masters,  Biblical narrative and poetry, and more.

The Books in My Life by Henry Miller; personal, unbounded prose energy focused on a search for kindred spirits in print.

The Gary Snyder Reader by Gary Snyder; a sure-footed, pure American spirit in service to literature and community.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway; pent-up revenge, traces of fear, defensiveness and edenic loss; a sad song to consciousness in the spirit of the Romantic poets by a writer who places emotion beneath the surface of his prose.

The Structure of Complex Words by William Empson; a down-to-earth linguistic, literary criticism, bracing for the attention it demands; I’ve already downloaded free copies of Seven Types of Ambiguity and Some Versions of Pastoral; such an original sensibility.

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