If you think of the major American writers, you are likely to remember Melville, Hawthorne, Twain, James, Cather, Dreiser, Faulkner, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald among the novelists. Nathaneal West, Ralph Ellison, Thomas Pynchon, Flannery O’Connor, and Philip Roth would be among those I would add. The poets who matter most begin with Whitman and Dickinson and include Frost, Stevens, Moore, Eliot, Crane, and perhaps Pound and William Carlos Williams. Of more recent figures I would list Robert Penn Warren, Theorodre Roethke, Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, John Ashbery, A.R. Ammons, May Swenson. The dramatists are less illustrious: Eugene O’Neill now makes for unsatisfactory reading, and perhaps only Tennessee Williams will gain by the passage of time. Our major essayists remain Emerson and Thoreau; no one has matched them since. Poe is too universally accepted around the world to be excluded, though his writing is almost invariably atrocious.
–“Walt Whiman as Center of the American Canon,” The Western Canon
**********I DON’T KNOW HOW TO CONTROL MYSELF************
For those who have been dutiflly following my reading of The Western Canon (I assume this is everyone) be warned that it’s going on a short (maybe) hiatus, because a couple chapters after the Whitman chapter is one on Dickens’s Bleak House and George Eliot’s Middlemarch, neither of which I’ve read. Of course, a lot of the books Bloom is writing about are books I’ve never read, but I’m not really worried about having The Canterbury Tales spoiled for me in the same way as I am with a plot-driven work like a Dickens novel. So, because I lack any sense of perspective and/or the ability to control myself, I’m putting Bloom back on the shelf while I read all 900+ pages of Bleak House before I read Bloom’s chapter about it. Why not just skip that chapter? Because that’s not how I roll. Will I also read Middlemarch? No telling, but probably not. I feel like Dickens is one of those writers you read primarily for plot–the first time through, anyway. His books are highly re-readable, even after you know what happens, but that first time through is really an adventure, and I don’t want to deprive myself of that. So, to all you Bloom-heads out there, hang tight. Maybe pick a copy of Bleak House for yourself? Either that, or pray for me to find an adderall connection.