Review of “Caroline’s Bikini”: a Modern-Day Mash-Up of Dante, Milton and Metafiction

“Writing a book review about a novel that is about a book reviewer writing a novel, and that references the act of novel writing, often in footnotes, is the self-reflexive task of appraising Kirsty Gunn’s latest offering. A modern-day mash-up of Milton, metafiction and Dante, and of Renaissance swooning in Richmond, Caroline’s Bikiniquestions myth and reality through an exploration of the nature of fiction and the projection of love.

“Courtly love is the fabric on which this modern story is sewn. The book includes sections of Il Canzoniere, a sonnet sequence written by Petrarch after having fallen in love with a 14-year-old girl exiting a church. The 14th-century poet wrote yearningly about her for a period of 40 years without ever meeting her.” […]    –Rebecca Swirsky, New Statesman, June 27, 2018

From Dante to “I Love Dick”: 10 books about Unrequited Love

“Katherine Mansfield’s exquisite long short story At the Bay, Beryl, a middle-aged woman still fantasising about the young girl she once was and the lovers she could have captured then, stands in a darkened room half-imagining someone is out there in the dark, desiring her. So much of fiction is about desire, a yearning of some kind or another … the love of reading itself a sort of intense affair.

“These thoughts and more were whirling around in my mind when I wrote my own novel about unrequited love, Caroline’s Bikini, the story of middle-aged Evan’s great love for his landlady, the desirable but always just out of reach Caroline Beresford.

“The Divine Comedy by Dante- Dante follows hard on his heels, of course, and was writing before him – his Divine Comedy a kind of early novel, as I think of it, in three parts, that was inspired by a similar kind of experience. Dante never knew his Beatrice either, yet the idea of her propelled his great work about visiting Hell and Purgatory and Heaven, to be met there by her: another fantasy made true in words.” […]    –Kirsty Gunn, The Guardian, June 27, 2018

Dante’s Tour of Hell

“All hope abandon ye who enter here.”

“That’s the inscription on the gate to Hell in one of the first English translations of The Divine Comedy, by Henry Francis Cary, in 1814. You probably know it as the less tongue-twisting “Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” which is the epigraph for Bret Easton Ellis’s “American Psycho”, hangs as a warning above the entrance to the Disney theme park ride Pirates of the Caribbean, appears in the videogame World of Warcraft, and has been repurposed as a lyric by The Gaslight Anthem.

“But it’s just one line of the 14,233 that make up The Divine Comedy, the three-part epic poem published in 1320 by Florentine bureaucrat turned visionary storyteller Dante Alighieri. Literary ambition seems to have been with Dante, born in 1265, from early in life when he wished to become a pharmacist. In late 13th Century Florence, books were sold in apothecaries, a testament to the common notion that words on paper or parchment could affect minds with their ideas as much as any drug.” […]    –Christian Blauvelt, BBC, June 5, 2018

Reading Dante as a Feminist

“Classical literature has numerous inherent values and should still be extensively read by today’s readers. Still, despite my love for Dante, I would argue that it also essential to read classical literature with a critical eye, especially as our concepts of human rights and equality have greatly transformed since these works were written.

“Metamorphosis is traditionally typically about erotic, passionate love. Eros, this type of sinful love, is a subject that Dante explores extensively in the Divine Comedy. Dante studied Ovid extensively and engages with Ovid’s works in La Commedia. In his epic poem, Dante challenges Ovid and transfigures this process of transformation — often shaping metamorphoses into a perverted punishment of sin. Dante explicitly uses metamorphosis as a cruel, twisted form of punishment. Thieves transform into snakes and those who committed suicide are perversely turned into bushes and trees. Further parallels to Ovid can be drawn in Dante’s hell. Daphne was rendered a tree for all eternity — just as those in the circle of suicide were cruelly revoked from their human form.

“In the Inferno, the circle of Lust is predominantly full of women, including Cleopatra, Dido, Helen of Troy and Francesca. Though Dante engages with a few famous male literary characters — such as Paris and Achilles — in this circle, Francesca gives the longest soliloquy. Francesca is one of the few women in La Commedia to be given so many lines, and yet her identity and actions are tied to two male figures. Francesca was killed by her husband when he caught her having an affair with her brother. Dante portrays Francesca as a beautiful, gentle seductress–even the poet temporarily succumbs to her enchanting words. Although Francesca’s story provides interesting commentary on the constraints of love and society, it is unfortunate that Francesca is one of the only dominant female voices in the Inferno. Dante’s work would be more nuanced if he developed other female characters whose roles were not tied to lust and sexual temptation. ” […]    –Sophie Stuber, The Stanford Daily, June 4, 2018

 

Review: Matthew Pearl’s “The Dante Chamber”

“In “The Dante Chamber,” Matthew Pearl’s new thriller — a sequel of sorts to his 2003 bestseller “The Dante Club” — murder takes a literary turn. Sparked by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, the crimes are solved by a crack team of poets and painters: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his sister Christina Rossetti, Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson and the American doctor-poet-essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes (not to be confused with his son and namesake, the great Supreme Court justice).

“The murders take place in London in 1870. In the first murder, a member of Parliament is killed in a London park; a massive stone has inexplicably been tied around his neck and broken it. Soon thereafter an attractive woman dies on a London street; her eyelids have been sewn shut.

“Gabriel Rossetti, who was in the park during the first murder, disappears. His sister and friends fear for his safety, even as the police suspect he was the killer. Gabriel is fond of opiates and given to erratic behavior. When his wife died he impulsively had all his unpublished poems buried with her. Later, to the horror of many, he had them dug up.” […]    –Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post, June 1, 2018

Descendants of Lu Xun, Dante boost Sino-Italy cultural exchange

“The descendants of Chinese writer Lu Xun and Italian poet Dante Alighieri held a dialogue in Shanghai on Thursday in a bid to boost cultural exchanges between China and Europe.

“The trans-time-and-space dialogue between Lu (1881-1936), the “father of modern Chinese literature,” and Dante (1265-1321) was held at the Shanghai International Studies University in Hongkou District, where Lu spent the last decade of his life.

“Zhou Lingfei, the grandson of Lu, whose real name was Zhou Shuren, and Sperello Di Serego Alighieri, the 19th generation grandson of Dante, discussed the contributions and common features of their ancestors’ works.” […]    –Yang Jian, Shine, April 27, 2018

Jodi Picoult, Tenth Circle (2006), Dustin Weaver (Illustrator) Wildclaw (2006)

“The book was called The Tenth Circle.

“The main plot of the novel is a family drama focusing on a relationship between a father and daughter, but there is a secondary story in the form of the father’s comic book which we see pages of between each chapter. The father is a professional comic writer/artist, who in his super hero comic, “WildClaw”, is writing a story that parallels the drama in his life.

“The superhero, WildClaw, journeys into hell to rescue his daughter from the devil in a Dante’s Inferno inspired tale. Along the way he is forced to face the darkness within himself.

“I was very aware that this was not just a typical comic book, it was also an illustrated novel and I decided to take a more illustrative approach to the art.  Running with the Dante’s Inferno inspiration I tried for an art style reminiscent of the engraved art of Gustave Dore.

“I also chose a layout stile where one panel would serve as a kind of anchor illustration To me this style of layout creates a sense of each page being “a piece” onto itself. It’s a style that I think isn’t usually preferable in comics. In comics you mostly want to keep the reader moving through the story. In this I wanted to create illustrative pages that kept you looking at them.” […]    –Dustin Weaver dustinweaver.blogspot.com, September 3, 2014

Joseph Pearce, Catholic Literary Giants (2005)

Pearce-Catholic-Literary-Giants-Dante“Taken as a whole, one can see Eliot’s major work as paralleling that of his master, Dante. The Waste Land and ‘The Hollow Man,” were his Inferno, ‘Ash Wednesday’ and The Rock were his Purgatorio, and Four Quartets were his vision of Paradise. What a legacy he has bequeathed to posterity!” (176) — Joseph Pearce, Catholic Literary Giants: A Field Guide to the Catholic Literary Landscape

Contributed by Ellie Augustine (University of Kansas, 2020)

Gregory Bellow, “Crises of the Spirit: Dante and Bellow”

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In an essay entitled “Crises of the Spirit: Dante and Bellow,” Gregory Bellow, oldest son of Saul Bellow and author of Saul Bellow’s Heart: A Son’s Memoir, compares three of his father’s novels to Dante’s three canticles. “Crises of the Spirit” parallels the pilgrim’s psycho-spiritual crisis and recovery with those of Bellow’s characters, and with the novelist’s own biography. Using private anecdotes and personal recollections, Gregory Bellow traces his father’s mid-life “crisis of spirit” through the Dantean themes of evil, spiritual cleansing, and love.

A PDF copy of the essay is available here, with permission of the author.

Stilnovo e Oulipo

No-Curves_The-Supreme-Poet

“Come avrebbe reagito Dante Alighieri davanti all’Oulipo? Scopriamolo su Betwyll con #Stilnovo a settembre, preparandoci alla mostra ‘Il volto di Dante, per una traduzione contemporanea.’ […]

“Giocheremo a #Stilnovo sperimentando un approccio diverso, oltre al consueto: ogni giorno leggeremo e commenteremo una parte della poesia seguendo una delle regole elaborate dall’Oulipo e messe in pratica da Raymond Queneau nei suoi Esercizi di stile. Ogni giorno, i partecipanti potranno perciò trascurare nei loro tweet e twyll l’uso di particolari lettere (lipogramma), oppure riscrivere la strofa al passato remoto, o ancora commentarne il contenuto con un tweet formale e burocratico, facendo paragoni gastronomici o cromatici.”

More info here