Allan Bloom, who died Oct. 7 at 62 of a peptic ulcer, was perhaps the most improbable star of the pop culture he yearned to demolish. His 1987 book, The Closing of the American Mind, which depicts today’s graduates as a generation of narcissistic swine, sold a million copies, causing him to roam the University of Chicago, where he taught philosophy, bellowing, ”I’m number one!”
In some ways, Bloom blew it. He was careless to compare the black gunmen of the 1969 Cornell student revolt to Hitler’s goons, and foolish to have attacked Louis Armstrong as a secret agent of a German cultural conspiracy against the U.S. for recording ”Mack the Knife.” Bloom also thought the hippie expression ”stay loose” derived from Nazi sympathizer Martin Heidegger’s concept of Gelassenheit (literally, calmness).
But the culture he attacked was even more out of it: One late-’80s survey found that students thought Heinrich Himmler had invented the Heimlich maneuver. Bloom was the right crank at the right time. His book was originally titled Souls Without Longing, but it turned out that the nation was really longing for a kick in the pants from a soul without mercy.