How to Read and Why

How to Read and Why - Harold Bloom I am always eager to read a book that purports to encourage reading within the general population. Bloom certain encourages reading, but his text How to Read and Why assumes that the reader is already well versed in the classics. Plots of classic novels and plays are referred to in shorthand; Bloom makes innumerable comparison to Shakespeare's Iago without ever mentioning the plot of Othello. Luckily for me, I've read enough of his sources to have gleaned a good deal from Bloom's book, but I was left thinking that it might be most useful after one is familiar with the Western Canon. Which would rather guarantee that one is a dedicated reader and means that Bloom is, as they say, 'preaching to the choir'. Bloom's book left me feeling as if I was back in my undergraduate university classes, which is both a positive and a negative thing. I loved the atmosphere of learning that infused those years of my life, but Bloom's method of teaching -- in telling us what the texts mean, instead of guiding us as we discover it for ourselves -- is a method commonly used by forgettable teachers. Yes, we know 'how to read' these particular texts, but the only guidance Bloom gives us for reading in general does not require the reader to move past the Introduction. To read is to experience something outside of ourselves and our own experiences. Whether we agree with the author's vision is relatively unimportant. Bloom tells us, "Read deeply, not to believe, not to accept, not to contradict, but to learn to share in that one nature that writes and reads" (29).I came away from Bloom's book with a list of new authors to try, but not a philosophy of 'how to read and why'. Perhaps it is mostly a question of having different goals in reading than those of the author in writing.This review also appears at Boxes of Paper.