Dinaw Mengestu, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007)

“Dinaw Mengestu belongs to that special group of American voices produced by global upheavals and intentional, if sometimes forced, migrations. These are the writer-immigrants coming here from Africa, East India, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Their struggles for identity mark a new turn within the ranks of American writers I like to call ‘the in-betweeners.’ The most interesting work in American literature has often been done by such writers, their liminality and luminosity in American culture produced by changing national definitions (Twain, Kerouac, Ginsberg), by being the children of immigrants themselves (Bellow, Singer), by voluntary exile (Baldwin, Hemingway) and by trauma (Bambara, Morrison).

[. . .]

“Judith, a white woman who moves into the predominantly black Logan Circle, becomes Sepha’s Beatrice, and, as with Dante, she leads him from his exile to purgatory and, eventually, to redemption. They meet over the counter in Sepha’s store, which is where all the community eventually comes together – to buy, to hang out, to shoplift, to receive and pass along gossip. Sepha’s relationship with Judith is facilitated by the wonderful connection he has to Judith’s precocious daughter, Naomi. And like Dante and Beatrice, they have a love that remains fraught and unconsummated but powerful and transformative nonetheless. Part of the difficulty is that Judith represents the new wave of gentrification and Sepha’s decision to date her is seen as an act of betrayal by the other residents. Neighborhood tensions build because of Judith (since she symbolizes the oppressor), and her home is firebombed by local thugs. Sepha’s own redemption and the choice he makes in this matter are what shape his new self.”   –Chris Abani, “Dante, Beatrice in a narrative of immigration,” The Baltimore Sun (March 11, 2007)

Contributed by Francesco Ciabattoni (Georgetown University)

UCLA’s Dante in the Americas

“The literary appropriation of Dante over the last century has been enormous. His influence has been front and center in all major modern literary traditions—from T.S. Eliot to William Butler Yeats, from Albert Camus to Jean-Paul Sartre, from Jorge Luis Borges to Derek Walcott, from Giorgio Bassani to Giuseppe Ungaretti. Why such fascination? What are the textual characteristics of Dante’s Commedia that make it an ideal vehicle for literary appropriation, thereby allowing it to enjoy a sustained cultural afterlife? What, moreover, are the more accidental factors (e.g., taste, world view, political agenda, religious, and mystical convictions) which account for the popularity of Dante—after 300 years of neglect during which the Florentine poet was relegated to the shadows of Petrarch and his works—among artists, novelists, poets, playwrights, and cinematographers? This symposium, co-organized by Professor Massimo Ciavolella (Italian, UCLA), Professor Efraín Kristal (Comparative Literature, UCLA), and Heather Sottong (Italian, UCLA), considers these questions, concentrating on Dante’s influence in North America and especially in Latin America.”   —UCLA Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, 2011

“The Divine Comedy Like You’ve Never Seen Before”

“Take a peek inside! In a bustling studio in Brooklyn, New York, contemporary artist George Cochrane is immersed in a monumental challenge: to exquisitely letter and illustrate every page of Dante’s Divine Comedy, completely by hand – INCREDIBLE!

“George’s obsession with Dante is apparent through his achievement of painting hundreds of portraits of the poet over the years. But his dream has always been a simple one: to  and more attractive to younger generations.

“George recognized that the best medium to achieve his dream was a combination of the ancient illuminated manuscript and the modern graphic novel.

“This combination will equally delight Dante enthusiasts and first-time readers of the Divine Comedy.”   —Facsimile Finder, 2021

 

“Columbia Art League Exhibit Honors Dante With Visions of the Afterlife”

columbia-art-league-dante-visions-of-afterlife-2021“CAL’s current exhibit, The Divine Comedy, is grounded in Dante Alighieri’s medieval masterwork, a revealing, often harrowing pilgrimage through the stations of the afterlife. CAL artists responded to Dante’s themes, and everlasting concepts of life beyond our own, in personal and particular ways.

“Heaven, hell and purgatory are represented within these images, and relatively well-balanced, CAL education and outreach director Karen Shortt-Stout said. Given the existential troubles of 2020 and early 2021, she thought artists might bend in greater number toward the visual language of fire and brimstone.

Blue Moon Burgers’ Halloween Special

blue-moon-halloween-special-2020“‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here…’

“Helping people feel good about making bad choices – it’s what we do here at Blue Moon Burgers. And we’ve got the perfect thing to help you through Halloween – we call it ‘Dante’s Inferno’

“Just as the exiled poet Dante made his voyage through the Nine Circles of Suffering/Hell, the Boys at Blue Moon Burgers are ready to help guide you through the Third Circle (gluttony!) with a spicy temptation offered all day/evening on October 31.

“The centerpiece of the Dante’s Inferno meal is our El Diabo Azul, a devilish burger coated with cayenne and cumin seasoning, topped with deep-fried jalapeno bottlecaps, pepper jack cheese and our spicy buffalo sauce. Fresh lettuce and housemade Pico de Gallo on a delicious Grand Central Bakery bun finish off this burner of a burger.

“The Diablo’s running mate is a full-order of our Jalapeno Bottlecaps,  which are floured and deep fried to a perfect crunch, and served with our own spicy buffalo sauce.

“Then to cool you off, we include a pint of one of our great beers on tap – or if you’d rather stay in the spirit of things (and off the spirits!), you can have a Pumpkin Pie Shake instead.  Whichever flies your broomstick is fine with us.

“There you have it – our Dante’s Inferno – offered Oct 31 only, at the special price of $10.31 – a devil of a deal!!!  There’s no punishment for gluttony here at Blue Moon Burgers…”    —Blue Moon Burgers.

9 Circles of Hot Sauces and Spice Blends

nine-circles-of-hell-hot-sauce-and-spice-blend-2020

“Perhaps a long, hot walk, but a walk non the less. There is such a diverse pepper combination that is difficult to peg a dominate flavor source. I see the listed ingredients are not in order by scoville heat unit scale measure but in a manner that each pepper’s heat compliments each other. Remember the flavor curve? This was excellent.   Well done 9 Circles. The chicken was wonderful as well. I look forward to adding this spice mix to my kitchen inventory.

“The pork loin and the chicken breast that were rubbed with the brown sugar spice mix were obviously not as hot. But for the folks that can’t really handle the heat, but want to be bold enough and try the flavors of these wonderful peppers, this mix works. The brown sugar calmed the intense heat as provided by all these peppers. Ultimately, play around with the spice mix and see with what works for you heat wise.

“I’m happy somebody had the creativity and balls to develop and make this mix. The pepper combination worked well. I have had my fair share of hot pepper mixes, but 9 Circles Of HELL did their homework and produced a product worthy of the 9 dissentions of hell.” [. . .]    –Stephen Bishop, Perfect Meal Today, July 19, 2015.

 

The Dual Observer: “Hamilton Dems Register Damned Souls in NY-22”

dual-observer-hamilton-dems-register-damned-souls-2020

“After crossing Acheron, the river of woe, Aligheri led the Dems through the nine circles of eternal suffering in search of spirits willing to switch their voter registration to Clinton. The group had a productive afternoon getting networking advice from their parents’ deceased coworkers and handing registration forms to any vaguely American-looking ghost able to pull its head above the lake of fire. ‘I want to make sure that the Hamilton locals have the best public officials I can pick for them,’ Aligheri said after securing an application from a heretic buried in a flaming tomb. ‘I just love the Uvula area and I want to give back. Like back home in Connecticut when I go down to McDonald’s and give the poors unsolicited investment advice.'” [. . .]    –Mr. Nelson, The Dual Observer, October 9, 2020.

Thanksgiving and the Nine Circles of Travel Hell

thanksgiving-and-the-nine-circles-of-travel-hell-2020“Poll air travelers this Thanksgiving weekend and they will single out the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) for particular animus. They will blame the TSA for long lines and inefficiency in order to support a process that has as much to do with theater as it does true security. But, as a frequent traveler and a bit of a curmudgeon before my time—1.5 million miles on United can do that to a person—I would argue that the TSA deserves to occupy only one circle of hell, and a relatively mild one at that. True eternal damnation should be reserved for my fellow passengers. So, in the opposite of the spirit of Thanksgiving and with all due respect to Dante, below are those who occupy my nine circles of travel hell:” [. . .]    –Michael Rubin, AEIdeas, November 22, 2016.

Dominick’s Deli’s Dante’s Inferno

domincks-dante-inferno-dish-2020No. 46: Dante’s Inferno from Dominick’s Deli “Is it just us, or are the places that make a solid old Italian sandwich getting fewer and farther between? Because a really good sub is a science, and superior makers consider not just the flavor combination, but also the meat-to-bread ratio and how the thing holds up when you eat it–you don’t want your toppings making your bread soggy before you finish, and you don’t want your stuffing to slip out of the sides of your stack. Dominick’s Cafe, an old Upper East Side joint that’s been sating the neighborhood with hot heroes and prepared Italian foods for a couple of decades, nails this. Consider the Dante’s Inferno: Dominick’s cuts a slit in a chewy Italian loaf and then tightly and thickly layers in hot sopressata, pepperoni, prosciutto, smoked meat, and peppery jalapeño cheese. Hot pickled peppers, tomato slices, and a little vinegary house salad add the crowning touch before its wrapped in white deli paper and passed your way. Each bite brings perfect harmony among all ingredients, and the roll stays in tact until your final bite.” [. . .]    –Laura Shunk, Village Voice, August 22, 2013.

Dante’s Inferno Food Truck (Green Bay WI)

dantes-inferno-food-truck-green-bay-2020

See the whole “Dante’s Inferno Food Truck” Facebook page here.