Naomi Wolf has eased the burden of silence she has been carrying for over 20 years. In New York magazine she reveals that one evening after a dinner party, when she was a Yale undergraduate, Professor Harold Bloom of Yale placed his ‘heavy, boneless hand hot’ on her thigh. After she repelled the advance, if it was an advance, Mr Bloom took his bottle, proclaimed his innocence — or so I take it — by saying ‘You are a deeply troubled girl’, and left.
But for me, it awakened a more intimate memory. I was 27, a postgraduate student at Yale in my last term, and then, as now, a man. Unlike Naomi Wolf, I needed nothing from Prof. Bloom. I was destined for a first teaching job at Boston University. I even had an official appointment at Yale (in Yale’s exquisitely calibrated taxonomy of humiliation) as Part-Time Acting Assistant Instructor of English.
One day, walking along Temple Street, I saw Harold ambling towards me. Taken aback, I acted on instinct — and resorted to flattery. I had heard him give a wonderful lecture at a conference on Gnostic religion a week earlier. The audience was composed primarily of scholars, but there were a few disconcerting figures in the audience who looked as if they were Magus figures escaped from the pages of an Iris Murdoch novel.
I told him that I thought his lecture was beautiful. He stopped, and regarded me with his soft, yearning eyes. ‘My dear,’ he said, ‘what a lovely thing to tell an old and tired man.’ He was 47. ‘Here — let me kiss you.’ And he stepped forward, put his arms around me, pulled me to his then ample bosom, and kissed me on the mouth.