Under the Influence

One of the best apps on the iPhone is The Browser. Similar to Arts & Letters Daily it collates and selects quality articles and then categorises them - this way I get to read a wide range of material from international journals and magazines that I may not know about otherwise. However, it also has its own material. FiveBooks conducts interviews leading figures to ask what they think are the best five books in a particular field. The most recent one I found illuminating centred on the choices of veteran literary critic, Shakespeare-ophile and writer, Harold Bloom. His five books on literary criticism are here, and they should be made space for on the shelves of anyone interested in pursuing the study of literature. But what I found more interesting about the interview that is conducted with him using the books as the premise, was the thread of mentorship and friendship that runs throughout. Harold Bloom is 81 years old and it is remarkable that he knows - or knew - all five of the authors of the five classic books he has selected. One of the books he lists, MH Abrams 'The Mirror and the Lamp', required reading not only for those studying Romanticism but all literature, highlights one of these friendships best. MH Abrams, or 'Mike', as Harold Bloom calls him, has just turned 99, lives in New York and continues to read and write with power. 'Mike' has served as Harold Bloom's father figure, friend, and mentor to Harold since te latter was a seventeen-year-old freshman at Cornell. When these friendships and mentorships, then, are realised, it becomes clear why - or perhaps how - Bloom wrote his own classic text 'The Anxiety of Influence', as well as 'The Anatomy of Influence', in which he wonders why influence has been his lifelong obsessive concern. Not too difficult when one considers that literary giants like Abrams have been his mentors and father figures for the lion's share of his life.

Location:British Library, London

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