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Bloom on King Award: the Horror of It All

September 23, 2003

I was outraged after reading Harold Bloom's Sept. 19 commentary, "For the World of Letters, It's a Horror." I am a lifetime avid reader, and having read works by the likes of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, Stephen King remains one of my favorite authors. I got the impression from his piece that Bloom has never read any of King's works. He was more specific in his attack on J.K. Rowling, who did not win the National Book Foundation award. I think Bloom is making his literary analysis too complicated; reading is about entertainment and nothing else.

I will never forget the first time I read "The Stand" and "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption." The writing is nothing less than brilliant, and I encourage Bloom to pick up old copies and try them.

Alec Hull

Long Beach


Ordinarily, I would chuckle at Bloom's outrage over this award being given to King; clearly he is not interested in genre writing or popular fiction and is not sympathetic to the economic needs of publishers. He's better at analyzing King Henry IV than Stephen King, and that's fine.

However, after going recently to the (new) Studio City library, I was appalled to discover that there are hardly any books on the shelves by anyone other than King. Plenty of James Patterson, Danielle Steele, John Grisham and other bestselling writers, but almost nothing of any real literary merit. I asked at the desk about this and was told that this was Southern California, and people here were interested in "entertainment," not literature. I'm not chuckling at Bloom anymore.

Alan Ormsby

Sherman Oaks


Bloom needs to lighten up; you don't have to read Henry James all of the time. Writing is first and foremost storytelling; opening up the imagination to ideas and experiences that otherwise you would not have in a lifetime. King and Rowling are storytellers, descendants of those bards who told tales of old around fires at night. Not everything in the way of what is called "literary fiction" is good. A sentence may be grammatically beautiful and may be pleasant to the ear without making one bit of sense.

Finally, I think that a reader reads to be challenged. Regardless of what Bloom may see from his lofty perch, history and personal experience tell me that King and Rowling or, for that matter, other "entertainments" (as Graham Greene called them), do necessarily lead one to James Joyce.

Greg Garrotto

Los Angeles


How can the good professor see to read with his nose held so high in the air?

Dan Gilvezan

Beverly Hills


Bloom writes with nostalgia for the certainties of the 1950s, when "it was understood" that six male poets comprised "the great English romantic poets" and writers of penny dreadfuls like King knew their place. Of course, in the 1950s it was also "understood" by many that racial segregation was a good thing and that women should not receive equal pay for equal work.

In the Romantic period, it was understood (by William Wordsworth) that Charlotte Smith and Mary Robinson were formidable poets (not poets "who just can't write") and that Lord Byron used his sexual scandals to fuel the unprecedented demand for his poetry. Wildly popular writers of serialized fiction or sensational verse in one era sometimes become canonical figures in another, as in the cases of Charles Dickens and Byron, respectively. Bloom's groundbreaking literary scholarship has contributed much to the dynamic nature of the literary canon, which, like the literary marketplace from which it is inseparable, continues to change.

Adriana Craciun


Centre for Byron Studies

University of Nottingham

Nottingham, England

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