Dante in Vietnam

In a review by Susan Ellingwood of Dispatches,’ by Michael Herr

“Here’s what the 1977 Times review had to say about this book: ‘If you think you don’t want to read any more about Vietnam, you are wrong. ‘Dispatches’ is beyond politics, beyond rhetoric, beyond ‘pacification’ and body counts and the ‘psychotic vaudeville’ of Saigon press briefings. Its materials are fear and death, hallucination and the burning of souls. It is as if Dante had gone to hell with a cassette recording of Jimi Hendrix and a pocketful of pills: our first rock-and-roll war, stoned murder.’ ”    –Susan Ellingwood, The New York Times, September 15, 2017

Steve Miller Band, “Jet Airliner”

Jet AirlinerOne line of Steve Miller Band’s 1977 single “Jet Airliner” will sound familiar to any reader of Dante’s Divine Comedy:

“You know you got to go through hell before you get to heaven.”    —AZ Lyrics

Listen to the full song here.

Contributed by Kelly Clark

Vladimir Nabokov, “The Original Laura” (1977, 2009)

vladimir-nabokov-the-original-laura-1977-2009“In the late fall of 1976, the year before he died, The New York Times Book Review asked Vladimir Nabokov (along with a number of other writers, including John Dean) what he’d been reading lately. He reported that while in a Lausanne hospital that summer, he’d read Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ William H. Howe’s ‘Butterflies of North America’ and ‘The Original of Laura,’ ‘the not quite finished manuscript of a novel which I had begun writing and reworking before my illness and which was completed in my mind.’ In his delirium, he continued, he ‘kept reading it aloud to a small dream audience in a walled garden. My audience consisted of peacocks, pigeons, my long dead parents, two cypresses, several young nurses crouching around, and a family doctor so old as to be almost invisible. Perhaps because of my stumblings and fits of coughing the story of my poor Laura had less success with my listeners than it will have, I hope, with intelligent reviewers when properly published.’ I can take a hint: who’d want to pan Nabokov and end up among the ‘mediocrities’ on his enemies list, to which he might still be adding over on the other side?” [. . .]    –David Gates, The New York Times, November 11, 2009