The Shadow of a Great Rock A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible Harold Bloom

Publication date:
09 Oct 2012
Yale University Press
320 pages: 210 x 140mm
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The King James Bible stands at 'the sublime summit of literature in English', sharing the honour only with Shakespeare, Harold Bloom contends in the opening pages of this illuminating literary tour. Distilling the insights acquired from a significant portion of his career as a brilliant critic and teacher, he offers readers at last the book he has been writing 'all my long life', a magisterial and intimately perceptive reading of the King James Bible as a literary masterpiece. Bloom calls it an 'inexplicable wonder' that a rather undistinguished group of writers could bring forth such a magnificent work of literature, and he credits William Tyndale as their fountainhead.

Reading the King James Bible alongside Tyndale's Bible, the Geneva Bible, and the original Hebrew and Greek texts, Bloom highlights how the translators and editors improved upon - or, in some cases, diminished - the earlier versions. He invites readers to hear the baroque inventiveness in such sublime books as the "Songs of Songs", "Ecclesiastes", and "Job", and alerts us to the echoes of the King James Bible in works from the Romantic period to the present day. Throughout, Bloom makes an impassioned and convincing case for reading the King James Bible as literature, free from dogma and with an appreciation of its enduring aesthetic value.

Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. He lives in New Haven, CT.

"A product of decades of thought, this is an old man's book - wise while verging on the sentimental, pared down yet also self-indulgent, sometimes belligerent or desperate - whose overarching message should resonate nevertheless with readers of all generations."--Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times

"The book is invigorated by a passion. Bloom is evangelical on the genius of the King James Bible. He is excellent on the contribution of William Tyndale, 'the authentic genius of English Bible Translation'. He can be brilliantly perceptive on the 'erotic magnetism' of Esther or flawed heroism of David. His brisk run through the prophets is fun and often convincing. 'Jonah is a sulking, unwilling prophet, cowardly and petulant', he writes. 'Elijah and Elisha are savage, Jeremiah is a bipolar depressive, Ezekiel a madman.'"--Hugh MacDonald, Sunday Herald (Scotland)