He was a perfect gentleman. I won’t pretend that I was anything more than a naïve, semi-talented literary canon maker who had come to the esteemed professor and critic for some professional guidance. We met at Blasambe, the hip uptown eatery that catered to literary tastemakers, zeitgeist scribblers and cultural anthropologists trying to unwind from a hard day of creating the national consciousness. Bloom, with his archaic love of that transparent thing called literature, hypnotized me with a vivid explication of John Ashberry’s Tennis Court Oath as I sucked on my lobster tail and looked longingly into his jowls. I imagined that I could read all of the Western Canon on those loose, floppy neck drapes. There under his chin were the collected works of John Ruskin; right above the neck was an unexpurgated copy of She Stoops to Conquer.
In my leather satchel, I carried my own stab at immortality: a 700-page treatise on the role of poultry in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, a work I had never read. I called it The Feathers of Nirvana. To my mind, it cut through 30 years of the meta-critique, deconstruction, and multicultural gunk, and showed that Richardson clearly wrote the novel in order to prove that transcendence can only be found through protein.
Pretty soon, we were on the dance floor, our bodies flailing in an almost tribal ritual. Alas, multiculturalism has pervaded even into the realm of the people who make the club get crunk! He put his mouth up to my ear, though I had trouble hearing him over the thump of Ludacris.
“What?” I shouted.
He mumbled again.
“Do I have an oral erection on me?”
I thought that’s what he said.
He pulled me away from the dance floor to a corner spot where the noise was less intimidating. Reader, he touched my shoulder! I felt my skin jump with life.
“You have the aura of election upon you,” he said.
“I bet you say that to all the girls.”
“My dear, as far as I can tell you are a heterosexual male, one of a dying, savaged breed. Your essay on gender bifurcation in The Rape of the Lock skillfully dodged feminist jargon and made brilliant, insightful points.”
SCORE! I was so in.
Out in the thick August night, I wondered where all this was going. How many bottles of Amontillado had he imbibed? The sweat built on his forehead like an army of Cossacks preparing to attack his fleshy eyelids. I wondered how many books those eyes had swallowed, how many pastramis had touched those lips. Zounds! To be a cannoli, or a stromboli, or even a bag of chips and become one with the whole of the Western Canon.
Bloom grabbed me by the shoulder in a casual, masculine embrace.
“Let’s go to Houlihan’s and watch the Yankees game.”
The Yankees! What could he possibly mean by that? What devious, perverted, possibly demeaning adventure did he have planned for me when we went “to Houlihan’s” to watch the Yankees game?
We sat at the bar, right in the middle of the action. Apparently, the game meant something for the playoffs. Until that moment, as I sat next to the great man at the bar, listening to his deconstruction of things like the “hit and run” and the “Falstaffian Clemens”, baseball meant nothing to me. Jeter. Giambi. Bernie. The names began to resonate with a mixture of the divine and erotic that I remembered from my first days sitting in undergraduate poetry seminars, hearing names like Stevens, Browning and Spenser.
I wanted Bloom to love me, I wanted him to respect me, but more than anything I wanted him to canonize me. His proclamations shook me to my core when I read them in his dense, rambling texts. Now I wanted the same for The Feathers of Nirvana.
Back at my apartment, as he finished another bottle of Amontillado, I timidly handed him my thesis. He took it from me, looked down and said,
“I’ll get to it when I have some time.”
And that was it, the last words he ever spoke to me. I watched him waddle out the door, and then, from my window, down the street into the night, I realized that I had not wanted to be his friend, not wanted to have a good time, not wanted to watch baseball and drink wine. I just wanted him to make me one of the greats. I used him.