Thursday, July 17, 2003

The following was originally an email to my friend Erica, but since my email server is down and I think the various points are interesting, I shall post it here instead.

Anansi and Harold Bloom!

The Atlantic online has an interview with the famously egotistical Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom. Bloom says, among other things,

Just as frankly—and this is where that little book of mine breaks radically with the entire tradition—don't think for a moment, even when he stands above the praying Claudius, that Hamlet had the slightest intention of killing him. It's too paltry a deed for him! Claudius is such a small potato. It's unworthy of him.

No, the thing I think reviewers have liked least about that little book is my saying that there's a kind of war going on in it between Hamlet and Shakespeare. Hamlet is in effect demanding of Shakespeare, "Give me a play somewhat worthy of my magnificent intellectual consciousness and my presence! Give me a cosmological drama. Put me in King Lear, or at least Macbeth! Instead, here I am at this rotten court, surrounded by, apart from my old chum Horatio, these paltry fellows."

Do you think this is true, or do you think Harold Bloom is just madly in love with Hamlet and wishes he could see him in King Lear in order to demonstrate the imagined brilliance of the beloved Hamlet? Not that there's anything wrong with being madly in love with Hamlet, but I'm a bit skeptical about the Hamlet-as-too-cool-for-Hamlet theory.

Hey, I might even be right about Bloom's feelings for the prince of Denmark! Look at this:

Hamlet is so profound a character. He's really such bad news, though we find it so hard to accept that. We go on loving him. But in fact, he's not lovable. He doesn't love anyone, as far as I can tell.

Meanwhile, The Onion's men and women in the street have come up with new brilliances. This week's question is something like "What do you think of Bush's Africa trip?" Duane Carr, systems analyst, says, "I pray Bush steered clear of Anansi, the trickster spider-god. If not, the president may have learned a few lessons in a manner he didn't appreciate."

Erica, if you read this blog, do the world a vast favor and tell that story. I know of no one more suited to describe the meeting between George W. and the crafty Anansi than you.

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