“Dante to Dead Man Walking: One Reader’s Journey Through the Christian Classics” (2002)

dante-to-dead-man-walking-one-readers-journey-through-the-christian-classics-2002“What do the book of Genesis, the Second Inaugural Address, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X all have in common? According to author Raymond Schroth, they are all works worthy of being called classics of Christian literature. In Dante to Dead Man Walking, Schroth discusses fifty works–from books of the Old Testament to contemporary works of fiction and nonfiction–that challenge the social conscience and raise moral or religious issues in a provocative way.”    —Amazon, May 13, 2012

“Young Idols With Cleavers Rule the Stage”

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“. . .The roots of the butcher as an icon of cool might be found in the writings of Bill Buford, who fashioned an operatic meat hero out of Dario Cecchini, a towering, Dante-spouting butcher from the Chianti countryside. Mr. Buford immortalized him in an article for The New Yorker and in his book ‘Heat.'” [. . .]    –Kim Severson, The New York Times, July 7, 2009.
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See also: Buford’s book, “Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany” and his 2006 article “Carnal Knowledge: How I Became a Tuscan Butcher” in The New Yorker.

Primo Levi, “If This is a Man” (1947)

primo-levi-if-this-is-a-man-1947Primo Levi’s harrowing account of life in Auschwitz includes many references to Dante’s Commedia, most noticeably in the chapter called “Canto of Ulysses.” In the chapter, Levi recounts a scene where he and a French prisoner discuss books from their respective homes. The canto of Ulysses (Inferno XXVI) comes to his mind and he recites several lines from it.

Nick Reding, “Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town” (2009)

nick-reding-methland-the-death-and-life-of-an-american-small-town-2009“Think globally, suffer locally. This could be the moral of Methland, Nick Reding’s unnerving investigative account of two gruesome years in the life of Oelwein, Iowa, a railroad and meatpacking town of several thousand whipped by a methamphetamine-laced panic whose origins lie outside the place itself, in forces almost too great to comprehend. . .
In the grisliest passage of Methland, which deserves to be quoted at some length so as to convey its hellish momentum, he invites us to share in the torments of Roland Jarvis, a paranoid small-time meth cook, in the Dante-like interlude after the combustion of his improvised home lab (just one of hundreds in the area).
‘Jarvis looked down and saw what he thought was egg white on his bare arms. It was not egg white; it was the viscous state of his skin now that the water had boiled out of it. Jarvis flung it off himself, and then he saw that where the egg white had been he could now see roasting muscle. His skin was dripping off his body in sheets. . . . He’d have pulled the melting skeins of skin from himself in bigger, more efficient sections but for the fact that his fingers had burned off of his hands. His nose was all but gone now, too, and he ran back and forth among the gathered neighbors, unable to scream, for his esophagus and his voice box had cooked inside his throat.'” [. . .]    –Walter Kirn, The New York Times, July 1, 2009

John Kinsella, “Divine Comedy: Journeys Through a Regional Geography” (2008)

john-kinsella-divine-comedy-journeys-through-a-regional-geography-2008“This mammoth new volume from Australia’s Kinsella (Doppler Effect) takes its template and three-line stanza from the three books of Dante’s epic, out of order: first Purgatorio, then Paradiso, then Inferno. Each of the three works, made from dozens of separate poems, joins allusions to Dante with sights, events and memories from Kinsella’s Australia, especially the farming region outside Perth, where he grew up and sometimes lives. The poet’s wife, Tracy (his Beatrice, he says), and their toddler, Tim, play roles throughout. Mostly, though, the poems concern places, not people; their ground note is ecological, with nature taking many forms (locust wings… at sunrise over shallow farm-dams steaming already) set against the ballast/ of cars and infrastructures that endangers it all. That motif of eco-protest dominates the Inferno (last blocks of bushland// cleared away to placate the hunger/ for the Australian Dream), but it turns up in all three of these (perhaps too similar, and surely too long) sequences. Like his compatriot Les Murray, Kinsella can sound uncontrolled, even sloppy. Yet he can turn a phrase (Who describes where we are without thinking/ of when we’ll leave it?). Moreover, he means all he says and never exhausts his ideas or ambition.”    –Publisher’s Weekly, Amazon

Contributed by Aisha Woodward (Bowdoin, ’08)

Kathryn Harrison, While They Slept: An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family (2008)

kathyrn-harrison-while-they-slept-an-inquiry-into-the-murder-of-a-family-2008“In the Inferno of Dante, Count Ugolino, forced to cannibalize his children’s corpses, is led to narrate the horror by Dante’s offer to retell the story up in the world above. Genesis 19 not only tells the story of incest between Lot and his daughters, but proceeds to name their offspring: Moab and Ben-ammi, and the Moabites and Ammonites descended from them. Abel’s blood ‘cries out’ with its story, and the fratricide Cain is marked.” [. . .]    –Robert Pinsky, New York Times, June 8, 2008