Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Bloviators and New Waves

When I heard that Harold Bloom died yesterday, my first thought was that I was seeing an old piece of news that had made it into my Facebook feed.  I thought he had died several years ago.  But no, it was yesterday.

I thought, how appropriate that Bloom dies on the same day that both Margaret Atwood and Bernadine Evaristo won the Booker prize, in spite of the rule that the prize can only go to one author.

I confess that I haven't read the work of Evaristo, but I plan to.  I am also rather astonished to realize that I have never finished a work written by Bloom.  I understand his importance, but his work seems important to a different century.

If I was a younger student in grad school, perhaps I would write a paper considering how the anxiety of influence is different in our current age, where there can be such a variety of influences, and it seems harder to know which mediums will shake out to be most important.  Maybe I would argue that one of Bloom's most important ideas isn't really important anymore.  Or maybe I'd see it as more important than ever.

During my own grad school years, in the late 80's to early 90's, Bloom seemed like a rather shrill voice, going on and on about the traditional canon and how women and minorities were ruining it all.  Or maybe that's just how he was interpreted by the larger news outlets who still gave him a voice.

And yet, here is Bloom once again bulldozing his way into a post that had been intended to celebrate the accomplishments of female writers.  Can we never get away from these old white guy bloviators?

So, let me shift the focus.  Hurray for the Booker prize, celebrating 2 female authors.  Hurray for the 2 authors, accepting the prize graciously.  Will they be splitting the money between them?  Will they both get a full share?

I just looked it up.  They will be splitting the money.  I'm guessing that the publicity is more valuable than the prize of 50,000 pounds, which is worth roughly $63,000.  Atwood doesn't need the money or the publicity, but I'm glad she got the recognition when once again she didn't win the Nobel.  I had never heard of Evaristo, but now I will seek out her work, and I imagine that many other people had the same response.

I've read several articles about the prize, and I'm struck by Evaristo saying that she was motivated to write by the absence of women of color as characters in British fiction--it's a motivation that Harold Bloom would likely scorn, but it's always been important to me.  I'm grateful for writers who get up every day to record stories that aren't getting recorded any other way.

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