Great Books


Allan Bloom   The Great Books

Allan Bloom thought higher education was devalued when the Great Books of the Western World began to be discounted. He is probably correct, however Bloom may have been aiming a bit high for the average young college student or even mature adults.

After my brother retired from the Navy, he and his family moved into our grandparents' old farm house. Soon after the move he purchase a set of the Great Books recommended by Allan Bloom. The leather bound books with titles written with gold colored ink were ensconced in a special walnut  bookshelf in the hall and remained there, like an Egyptian mummy, undisturbed for years. I have a feeling something like that happened with most sets of the Great Books. They remained an impressive display of several running feet of knowledge, until somebody hauled them off to the local library to be replaced with a beautifully framed reproduction of Van Gogh Sunflowers.


 Harold Bloom  The Western Canon

Harold Bloom was a bit less demanding and only listed works he felt are central to the Western Canon; a much shorter and doable assignment. Bloom places Dante and William Shakespeare’s plays and poetry at the very center of the West’s creativity; and its ongoing inspiration.  I agree that the "School of Resentment", which replaces "dead white males" with feminist literary criticism, Marxist literary criticism, Lacanians, New Historicism, Deconstructionists, and Semioticians is an ongoing  tragedy for higher education. However, to select twenty six writers is a bit arbitrary.


JJ's    Book List

Over the years I have made several attempts to read Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past and never made it through volume one. I did finish Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, The Trial, and part of the way through The Castle. Except for passing an exam, I gained very little from his work. The fault is probably with me, but I did try. On the  other hand, when I began The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso there was no stopping until the book was finished, then I started over again....and again.

Humans are not empty vessels into which an approved literary mix can be can be poured and absorbed.  What is sauce for the goose is not necessarily sauce for the gander. Moreover, there is reading readiness; a precious few high school students can benefit much from reading Macbeth, but Romeo and Juliet will probably be well received. My appreciation for King Lear increases as I age, while Hamlet's philosophical muddle dims.  And so it goes.