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31:2, Book Reviews BLOOM'S KIPLING Harold Bloom, ed. Rudyard Kipling. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. $19.95 Kipling's emergence from copyright last year released a flood of new publications of, and about, his work. It was noticeable, at least on this side of the Atlantic, that the reminder of his name re-kindled some of the old resentments. The poet Gavin Ewart adopted Kipling's mock-Cockney (in Late Pickings, 1987) to make Rudyard snarl in derision: "Intellectuals an'reds that reads me books rum pile!/ I'm especially vindictive in that Mary Postgate tile!" Although to-day the British Empire is "one with Nineveh and Tyre" it is clear that the Kipling who was both its herald and its Cassandra can still inflame political passions among the British. It is very pleasant then to have this largely transatlantic contribution to the continuing debate about him. With one exception (an essay by Donald Davie, an Englishman settled in the United States) they have little to say of politics and much more to say about the Kipling who is generally agreed to be among the world's greatest storytellers, especially in his short stories. Harold Bloom has assembled a judicious selection of some of the best critical pieces on Kipling that have appeared since the late 1970s. By way of linking them with the criticism of the 1950s and 1960s, which helped to create the modem academic view of Kipling, he has put first on the list Randall Jarrell's lively essay of 1961, "On Preparing to Read Kipling," and he himself has contributed a brief and stimulating Introduction. It is tedious to try to summarize essays, and I will content myself with brief mentions to indicate the scope of the collection: making particular comments on only one, with which I have here and there some disagreements. Professor Bloom compares Kipling with Walter Pater, leaving the stress on the likenesses. This would have surprised both writers, but Bloom makes a good case. I thought of the passage in Something of Myself in which Kipling says: "I made my own experiments in the weights, colours, perfumes, and attributes of words, either as read aloud so that they may hold the ear, or, scattered over the page, draw the eye. There is no line of my verse or prose which has not been mouthed till the tongue made all smooth." We could say that Kipling, scourge of the Aesthetic Movement, was himself an Aesthete; or (more helpfully?) that talk of "movements " is irrelevant to serious criticism. Two weighty essays, mainly on Kim, one by Sir Angus Wilson, one by Irving Howe, find interestingly different things to say about it. Zohreh T. Sullivan's 1984 essay makes a case for ranking "The Brushwood Boy" higher than critics like Somerset Maugham and Sir Angus Wilson have placed it. David Bromwich's subtle essay, "Kipling's Jest," ranges over Kipling's poems as well as over his prose fiction. He convinced me that I had missed a fineness in a story "False Dawn" (from the Plain Tales) which Kipling's biographer Carrington dismisses as "a vulgar and improbable tale." But that is the pleasure of reading essays on Kipling: you see some delicate things in his work you had not seen before, even in stories and poems you thought you knew well. Elliott L. Gilbert's essay on "Silence and Surviv230 31:2, Book Reviews al" in Kipling is of surpassing excellence in this respect, while Robert L. Caserio's essay of 1986 made me want to read TAe Light that Failed again and re-examine its traditional low standing. Certainly, whatever the critics may have said, TAe Light that Failed has always had readers. I have left till last Donald Davie's 1979 essay, entitled "A Puritan's Empire." There is more pepper in this contribution than in any of the others, since they are all homages to Kipling and so their flavour is rather bland. Professor Davie is provocative and has earned the right to have at least one or two of his challenges taken up. First, he asks about the poem "Recessional": What god of whose fathers? What Lord of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 230-232
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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