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 Bikini questions 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

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 When his wife died he impulsively had all his unpublished poems buried with her.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

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

Circles of Hell: A Novel by Bonomali Goswami (India, 1991)

“It was a night of beauty and a night of terror. The deep blue sky was thickly constellated and after a long, sweltering day a balmy breeze was now blowing down the green soggy land. The sharp, stiff leaves on the bamboo thickets were aquiver with delight and yet the scented air seemed to be charged with a nameless fear.” — Bonomali Goswami, Circles of Hell: A Novel, 1991

Preview more and purchase the novel here.

circles-of-hell-book-1991

Charles Patterson, In Dante’s Footsteps: My Journey to Hell

“This modern divine comedy, based on the original Divine Comedy that Dante wrote 700 years ago, tells the story of Tom Reed and how his early interest in Dante inspired him to make his own viaggio (journey) to the Underworld.

“After describing Tom’s church upbringing and his joining, then leaving the church, the story continues in the Underworld (a.k.a. Hell) with a cast of characters Dante never could have imagined: Tanya, the CEO; Umberto, the Guest Master; Rachel, a young Dante scholar from Berkeley; visitors from China, India, Kenya, and Germany; and famous people in history woken up from the Big Nap for a ‘Great Minds and Personalities’ conference attended by such greats as Socrates, Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc, Einstein, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Groucho Marx. Tom also visits his father who’s in a ‘Purgatory precinct’ and talks to Hashem, his ‘wife’ Naomi, and somebody called Satan who wears a cowboy hat and walks with a swagger.

“The climax of Tom’s viaggio is his visit to the Crusaders who used to be in charge because he wants to include them in the book he plans to write that could make him the next Dante. However, because the Crusaders disapprove of his being a ‘defrocked priest,’ when he arrives, they withdraw their invitation and put him on trial.” — Charles Patterson, Press Release

Tasha Mack, Angel & Dante: A Dopeboy Love Story (2017)

Angel+Dante-Tasha-MackWhile the connection to Dante Alighieri isn’t explicit, the pairing of the two protagonists in the novel, Angel and Dante, has a “heaven and hell” resonance to it. Here is the synopsis of the novel, from Amazon.com: “The young, intelligent, & beautiful Angel Harris swore off men after a traumatic experience left her wanting to end her life. She found love in the arms of her new partner, Courtney. Things in the relationship were peaches & cream until Angel crossed paths with Dante Johnson.

“Dante Johnson, better known to the streets as Duke, was one of Atlanta’s most notorious kingpins. Duke was used to having women flock to him and be at his beck and call, until he met Angel. Angel was like a breath of fresh air to him with her charismatic personality and she helped him go escape the drugs, crimes, & promiscuous women in the Atlanta streets. Dante proved that he would do anything to make Angel his, even flaunt her around town with his fiancé Arianne at home.

“Arianne Thomas thinks that she has found her meal ticket out of the hood after she pops up pregnant with Dante’s baby. She is on cloud nine, until she finds out about Dante’s new love interest. Arianne will stop at nothing to protect what she feels is rightfully hers.” — Amazon.com

Go, Went, Gone (2015 novel by Jenny Erpenbeck)

“Would you like to read something while I’m getting lunch ready? Rufu says: Si, volontieri. The only book in Italian that Richard owns is Dante’s Divine Comedy. For years he’d been planning to read it in the original, but at some point the plan slipped his mind. For years, the Italian dictionary has stood beside it on his shelf. Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/mi ritrovai per una selva oscura/ché la diritta via era smarrita. He can still recite the opening lines in Italian from memory. Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood, the right road lost. Maybe not such a bad choice after all, he thinks, and hands the refugee — who’s gone a half a world astray — the burgundy-linen bound first volume.” — Jenny Erpenbeck, Go, Went, Gone (2015). Trans. from the German by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions, 2017).

See Adam Kirsch’s review of the novel, a fiction about the impact of the refugee crisis on European and global politics, here.

Contributed by Pete Maiers

Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose (1971)

Angle-of-Repose-Wallace-Stegner“Mr. Kendall, watching the floor come up, yanked on the bell wire and the skip shuddered and rattled to a halt. The groaning died; there was a lonely sound of dripping water. When they had helped her out onto the uneven floor, Oliver scratched a lucifer match on his seat and lit her candle, Mr. Prager’s, his own. In the enlarged bloom of light she could see for some distance down the timbered drift with its toy rails converging toward a vanishing point that was simultaneous with total blackness. Down this drift, with Kendall walking ahead and the others steering her by the elbows, they made their way. Inevitably she thought of Dante, Virgil, and Beatrice, and up on top Tregoning, Charon of this vertical Styx; but the thought of how silly it would sound to speak that thought made her blot it out. About used up, I should think, Oliver might say.”

Contributed by Pete Maiers

Sky Bardsey, The Afterwards series

“The Afterwards is a nine volume novel series, by Sky Bardsey that I personally think is a reimagined version of Dante’s Inferno. That is, if Dante were a teenage girl and lived right now. The edgy books are narrated in the first-person POV and are filled with hidden meanings and homages to Dante’s vision of Hell. However, this series seriously challenges and changes some of his assertions.”    –Heather M.

http://solsticiorebelde.com/featured-book/

(Contributed by Heather M. at Solsticio, Rebelde and Company)

The Dante Trap by Arnaud Delalande (2011)

“Murder follows murder, each more gruesome than the last, and as Viravolta begins to draw the connections between these deaths, and the torments reserved for sinners in each of Dante’s circles of hell, he finds himself embroiled in a terrible game of cat and mouse. As the streets of Venice fill with masked Carnival-goers, and as Anna and Viravolta are once again thrown together, he is drawn further into the inferno, to the heart of a secret sect and a plot to bring about the downfall of the city.” —Orion Books

Contributed by Alessandra Mazzocchi (Florida State University ’19)