Alexander McQueen’s “Dante” Collection, 1996

alexander-mcqueen-dante-collection-1996“McQueen’s theatrical ‘Dante’ collection was staged at a church in Spitalfields in 1996. The show opened with organ music filling the church that was soon drowned out by gunfire. Models walked the runway looking wearing wore crucifix masks, denim splashed with bleach and lots of lace. McQueen commented that the collection was ‘not so much about death, but the awareness that it’s there’.”    —The Concept of Fashion, December 20, 2011

Some of the pieces from this 1996 collection have been included in the “Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!” (2014) exhibition in London. To learn more about the London show, see “In London, Fashion History Up Close.”

Our Young-Adult Dystopia

city-of-dis“I sometimes wonder what Dante or Milton or any of those guys would make of the modern appetite for the young-adult epic. It wasn’t always a lucrative thing, writing grand, sweeping, fantastical stories, you know. It was a job for nose-to-the-grindstone, writing-for-the-ages types, and worldly rewards were low. Milton died in penury, blind and obscure; Dante met his maker in literal exile. Would they look with envy upon their celebrated and moneyed modern analogues– your J. K. Rowlings, your Suzanne Collinses?”    –Michelle Dean, “Our Young-Adult Dystopia,” New York Times Magazine, January 31, 2014

Dante in a Genealogy of Literature

mendelsohn“This is the essentially genealogical model of influence taught in college literature courses: Homer begat Virgil, Virgil begat Dante, and so on.”    –Daniel Mendelsohn, “Which Authors of Books Have Worked on You as ‘Negative Influences’?” New York Times, January 21, 2014

Dante’s Inferno: The Ballet (2014)

dantes-inferno-the-ballet“This new ballet traces Dante Alighieri’s journey through the nine levels of Hell in a chilling and beautiful tour-de-force of music, dance, striking masks, costumes, and choreography. With original music, masks, and sets created by Glenna Burmer, and music conducted by Grammy-award winner David Sabee and recorded at Studio X, this ballet is filled with exciting music, demonic dancing and wild choreography by the master Ronald Tice and Jennifer Porter.”    —Dante’s Inferno: The Ballet

Performances held February 21, 22, 23, 2014 at The Theatre at Meydenbauer Center (Bellevue, Washington).

Contributed By Gabrielle E. Orsi

Review of Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, Promise Land (2014)

promise-land-jessica-lamb-shapiro-2014“It’s ingrained in human nature to look at ourselves with a weary awareness of all that’s wrong within, and the optimism that someone, somewhere can tell us how to fix it. As Jessica Lamb-Shapiro points out in her ambitious if unfulfilling new memoir-cum-odyssey, Promise Land, we’ve been gobbling up self-help advice for nearly as long as the written word has existed, devouring it in the ancient Egyptian Sebayt writings and the Book of Proverbs. But our contemporary mania for the wisdom of Dr. Phil is different from what generations past gleaned from Epictetus or even Dale Carnegie, and Lamb-Shapiro aims to explain how. Along the way, she’s on a quest to fix herself. Lamb-Shapiro, who has written for The Believer and McSweeney’s, is a witty and enjoyably self-aware writer. She’s certainly a far more entertaining guide through hellish terrain — like a preshow interrogation by a ‘Dr. Oz’ producer — than Dante was given.” [. . .]    –Mary Elizabeth Williams, The New York Times, January 3, 2014

“Books, Just Like You Wanted”

03bits-knightley-tmagArticle“Kiera Knightley in the 2005 film “Pride and Prejudice.” The book by Jane Austen is among the most opened books on Oyster but is finished less than 1 percent of the time.”

“Anyone can publish a book these days, and just about everyone does. But if the supply of writers is increasing at a velocity unknown in literary history, the supply of readers is not. That is making competition for attention rather fierce. One result: ceaseless self-promotion by eager beginners.” […]

“Another commentator quoted the poet Joseph Brodsky, who wrote that ‘in cultural matters, it is not demand that creates supply, it is the other way around. You read Dante because he wrote The Divine Comedy, not because you felt the need for him: you would not have been able to conjure either the man or the poem.’ ” […]    –David Streitfeld, The New York Times, January 3, 2014