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

3.63  ·  Rating Details  ·  82 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
The King James Bible stands at "the sublime summit of literature in English," sharing the honor 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 ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Yale University Press (first published September 6th 2011)
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Sep 09, 2012 Danny rated it it was amazing
To say that I didn’t pay attention in Catholic Sunday school would be a severe understatement. Like most suburban boys I left the church around middle school, when a trip to see a James Bond movie with a girl was the alternative.

Only now at 27 do the cadences of the King James Bible lure me on, and only then did I become interested after those sounds were filtered through other sources: Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York, Terrence Malick’s version of the Book of Job (Tree of Life). Lastly
Diann Blakely
May 22, 2014 Diann Blakely marked it as to-read
In a statement delivered to the Millennial Gathering of the Writers of the New South, poet, prose writer, and editor Dave Smith spoke on the sound of Southern speech. He averred that it was single and singular: The way we sound the sound tells all the answers, evokes all the old mysteries, including the recognition that we are deeply and intuitively related, are in fact one thing." Furthermore, just like the King James Bible, to which he pointed as underlying that sound, Smith easily transcends ...more
May 09, 2012 Jess rated it it was ok
As a Christian English major I was highly excited to see that some level of study has been carried out analysing the Bible as literature. Alas, Bloom's superfluous commentary has minimal traction with the text and the literary analysis is neither comprehensive nor profound. Furthermore, I was mildly irritated by Bloom's comparison between Christians and people who live with Shakespeare as their god and other such unnecessary slights; to some extent such subjective and biased comments mitigated t ...more
Jake Bittle
Jun 04, 2013 Jake Bittle rated it liked it
Uh, Bloom is an incredibly well-read scholar and literary mentor to me, but he's also kind of a brat — where he's analyzing what he wants to (Genesis, Prophets, Songs) he's brilliant and it's hard to keep up with him, but in much of the New Testament he merely glosses over the writings with palpable distaste. I too am Jewish and have a detest for Paul, but that does not mean I would refuse to see Paul's literary genius, etc. In short: piercing in some places, lacking in others. Tantalizing but b ...more
Nov 24, 2011 Hadrian rated it really liked it
A curious and scintillating analysis of religious text as literary work. Bloom says he's spent his whole life working on this book, and one can feel that here, comparing previous versions, and the original Hebrew, and making comparisons to other great masterworks.

A slim volume, but one dense with insights.
William Walker
Jul 17, 2014 William Walker rated it liked it
It was the best of books. It was the worst of books. The intro and section on the Old Testament were terrific and a brilliant literary commentary. The section on the New Testament was mostly a theological diatribe with scant mention of a literary values. Recommend skipping that portion of the work.
Jon Marc Smith
Feb 24, 2012 Jon Marc Smith rated it it was amazing
Harold Bloom doing close readings of the King James, Tyndale, and the Geneva. As good as it gets.
Michael Kneeland
Jul 01, 2012 Michael Kneeland rated it it was amazing
Shelves: harold-bloom
Despise the anxieties of some Christians who bristle at the notion of Bloom, a self-described Gnostic Jew, conducting an "appreciation" of the King James Bible, this book succeeds at being an unbiased admiration of a central Western literary text. Bloom's readings, which sometimes comprise comparative readings of three or four different versions of the religious texts at once, never fail to provide enlightenment and insight into the aesthetic and rhetorical prowess of these Protestant scriptures ...more
Jan 07, 2014 Jared rated it it was ok
I started this book with high hopes. While I don't believe the Bible to be historically or ontologically true, I do appreciate its literary qualities and the impact that it's had on Western civilization. Harold Bloom approaches the Bible from this a wine connoisseur or an art critic. But--like a wine connoisseur or an art critic--he has the tendency to get very flowery and obscure in his language: name-dropping and making single-word references to classical literary works or a ...more
Christina Dudley
Jan 14, 2012 Christina Dudley rated it liked it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Confession: I only made it through the introduction, which I happened to find fascinating and full of promise for the rest of the book. Then the slim volume sat on my bedside table...and sat...and sat. Last night I picked it up and plunged into Chapter One, only to hit the following structure: (1) giant chunk of text in one translation, followed by (2) smaller chunk in another, followed by (3) discussion of Yahwist (sp?) versus some other redactor--dang! I snore, just typing it.

I think I was exp
Jul 18, 2015 Antoinette rated it really liked it
The introduction was extremely helpful to me.

It is necessary to have access to a dictionary and an encyclopedia close by both of which I used online frequently. If you read Greek and Latin; are a scholar of the Talmud and other Hebrew writings; intimately familiar with a number of ancient and modern poets; have already read much of the Old Testament in the the KJB version; and are a Shakespeare scholar, these tools are not necessary.

I am none of the above but that did not decrease my enjoyment
Dec 30, 2015 Charlie rated it did not like it
I enjoy Harold bloom, even if I cannot relate to what he is saying nor agree with it. With few scattered exceptions I found this book to be a complete bore, without passion and without effort. I was disappointed.
Jason Myers
May 06, 2013 Jason Myers rated it liked it
This is a great source for research on the topic, but I would not recommend it for general study. Bloom is certainly critical and not very appreciative. The New Testament section is much too brief. I felt that it was more of a literary appreciation of the Tyndale Bible than the KJV which used much of Tyndale's work. KJV-only types will be challenged if they are attracted to the book due to the title.
Mar 01, 2012 John rated it it was amazing
Mind-boggling amounts of insight into the architecture, authorship and trivia of the Christian Bible. This guy is able to compare several Bibles in English to the original. Erudition beyond erudition and about erudition, but its all very readable with a great deal of insight. This is really one that we should call a great book.
James Coon
Apr 25, 2013 James Coon rated it liked it
This appreciation of the King James Bible does not hang together as well as I had hoped it would. Even so, it is well worth reading, especially to gain insight into how the KJB has influenced our thinking, despite being a rather poor translation of much of the original material. An important read for those who view the KLB as literature.
Jul 09, 2012 Benjamin rated it did not like it
Shelves: stopped-reading
Sad that after 60 years of writing about literature, that a book "I have been writing all my life" is so tepid, contains so little original thought, and is wrought throughout with statements such as "Shakespeare is my scripture, but I cannot believe in the Bible."
Paul Gatz
May 18, 2012 Paul Gatz rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, criticism
Really phoning it in here, Bloomie.
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Bloom is a literary critic, and currently a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than 20 books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He has edited hundreds of anthologies.
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“He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.” 1 likes
“Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds.” 1 likes
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