Anton Chekhov by Harold Bloom

By Harold Bloom

Bloom's glossy serious perspectives

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Plutarch: How to Study Poetry (De audiendis poetis) (Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics)

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Its identity as an ‘unreal’, imagined thing – artifice. Every kind of art is unreal after a fashion, but the point is particularly obvious with respect to literature. ). So with any sort of literary realism there’s a certain degree of ambiguity about what’s being asserted. By its nature, realism is a state of opposition – it only makes sense in contrast with what’s unreal: fantasy, illusion, myth, lies, and so on. But thought of as a literary virtue, ‘realism’ therefore seems strictly incoherent or impossible or both, because how can fiction ever be real?

In some respects, not only are Houellebecq’s novels unimaginative (in their reductive worldview), they are anti-imaginative too; they actively dislike the imagination. Houellebecq hammers the mantra that the engine of consumer capitalism is a terrible intensification of desire, which makes satisfaction progressively harder. He means sex, but the idea might just as well be generalised. 63 What’s significant is its defeatism. ’). A confusion specific to Houellebecq, rather than depressive realism in general, is that his novels capitulate to fantasy, over and over again; the same fantasies they blame human suffering on.

Taking it as axiomatic that there’s a current of frustrated desire Western culture feeds on and intensifies, Houellebecq ramps up the resentment – at the failure of life to live up to its billing; at the distance between virtual attractions and everyday landfill; at the creeping feeling that there’s a gigantic party going on all the time somewhere that you haven’t been invited to; at a cultural nervous system toxified by wanting and not having, having and not wanting anymore; and at all (to quote Wallace once again) ‘the really rather brilliantly managed stress everybody is made to feel about staying fit and looking good and living long and squeezing the absolute maximum productivity and health and self-actuation out of every last vanishing second’.

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