An op-ed by Harold Bloom came to yesterday’s Boston Globe by way of the L.A. Times. I heard about it through a comic reading by Mike Barnacle on the radio this morning. Bloom uses the National Book Awards’ decision to award their 2003 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Stephen King as an example of “another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life.” Bloom gives J.K. Rowling a sarcastic nomination for the Nobel Prize for literature.
As a fellow fiction writer [Boston joke], Barnacle was incensed. There’s plenty in the article to offend, most notably where Bloom says that “Rowling’s mind is so governed by cliches and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing.” Bloom, in case you don’t know, is a prominent literary critic. [See his wikipedia entry.] The real trouble with his article isn’t the legitimate criticism of King and Rowling’s weaknesses, but that Bloom makes no effort to explain what Pynchon and Roth have that trashy genre writers lack. So he comes off looking like a snob rather than a critic.
Maybe that’s beneath him, or maybe he feels that if a reader can’t distinguish between J.K. Rowling and Lewis Carroll there’s no point trying to explain. That may be true, but it only adds to the backlash against mainstream fiction from us trashy genre readers. If it were my article, I compare King to Shakespeare, another author with commercial appeal, and see whether King measures up.
Speaking of dissing, webloggers don’t get much respect, either, but Joe Clark wants every serious blogger to get their own ISSN number (International Standard Serial Number). We are all semi-daily periodicals. I took a look at the US request form, but you have to give the Library of Congress your name, address and phone number to get an ISSN. That’s almost as bad as registering a domain - I prefer my privacy, thanks.