Jayson Greene, Once More We Saw Stars (2019)

Once-More-We-Saw-Stars-2019Once More We Saw Stars (Knopf, 2019) is a memoir by Jayson Greene, about the tragic loss of his 2-year-old daughter Greta and his path through grief to healing.

A review in the Washington Post notes, “The book’s title, from Dante’s Inferno, tips us off that Greta’s bereft parents will, in the poet’s words, ‘get back up to the shining world.’ But Once More We Saw Stars, an outgrowth of a journal Greene began shortly after the accident, is a chronological account, which means there’s unthinkable pain before the arduous ‘path toward healing.’

“Like Virgil, Greene makes for a good guide on this journey to hell and back. He’s a Brooklyn-based journalist and editor who met his wife, Stacy, a cellist by training, at the classical-music nonprofit where they both worked. After Greta’s birth, Stacy switched tracks to become a lactation consultant and nutritionist. Their story is not just of loss, but of their remarkable love, which helps them through this tragedy.” [. . .] — Review by Heller McAlpin in the Washington Post (May 8, 2019)

Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948)

The Seven Storey Mountain is Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s 1948 best-selling autobiography. The title refers to Dante’s Purgatory. The book made the National Review’s list of the best 100 non-fiction books of the 20th Century.

Seven Storey Mountain

LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, “The System of Dante’s Hell” (1965)

“[T]he function of writing about Dante and the control over access to the part of the tradition that Dante inhabits can liberate the black writer. At least it liberates LeRoi Jones, turning him into a new man with a new name, Amiri Baraka, whose experimental literary project culminates in The System of Dante’s Hell in 1965. Dante’s poem (specifically in the Sinclair translation) provides a grid for the narrative of Baraka’s autobiographical novel, and at the same time the Italian poet’s description of hell functions for Baraka like a gloss on many of his own experiences. [. . .] Baraka uses Dante first to measure the growing distance between himself and European literature, then, paradoxically, to separate himself totally from it. His Dante is a marker of separation rather than integration.” — Dennis Looney, Freedom Readers: The African-American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy (Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2011), pp. 105-106