‘The Bright River’: A Hip Hop Version of Dante’s Inferno

“Quick lives in the City of the Dead, and pays his rent by finding souls lost in purgatory. Scouring the water-bound city for a red-headed girl named Calliope, Quick finds the soldier who loved her, a pager-carrying bouncer named King of the Birds, and a demon who claims to be toiling for the good of the world. With a live soundtrack of cello, flute, drums, and vocal calisthenics, The Bright River follows Quick’s journey through the dingy underworld – from the bus station of purgatory to the rooftop of creation.

“Deep and dark as the River Styx, this neo-gothic tale of love was first performed by energetic bard Tim Barsky to sold-out Berkeley crowds in 2005. Resurrected from the theatrical graveyard, this musical reinvention of Dante’s Inferno is set for a three month run. With music that thrums through your bones and a story that yanks your still-beating heart straight out of your ribcage, The Bright River is proof that hope comes at man’s darkest hour.” [. . .]    –7×7 Editors, 7×7, December 11, 2009.

Amanda Craig, In a Dark Wood (2000)

“The dark wood in the title of British writer Amanda Craig’s third novel (her first to be published in the U.S.) is the same one a certain Florentine poet got lost in 700 years ago. Benedick Hunter is halfway through the journey of our life and, like Dante, discovers that he’s wandered into a murky and threatening place, metaphorically speaking.

“A London actor whose career is idling and whose novelist wife, with her ‘air of terrifying competence,’ has left him for her prosperous publisher, Benedick slinks off to bunk in the attic of a family friend’s house, where he can hide from his overbearing father. (‘He is a columnist, so judging others comes naturally to him,’ explains Benedick with false nonchalance.) […]” —Laura Miller, Review of In a Dark Wood by Amanda Craig, Salon.com, Feb. 21, 2002

See the author’s page here.

Michiko Kakutani Review: Books on Donald Trump

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“To read a stack of new and reissued books about Mr. Trump, as well as a bunch of his own works, is to be plunged into a kind of Bizarro World version of Dante’s Inferno, where arrogance, acquisitiveness and the sowing of discord are not sins, but attributes of leadership; a place where lies, contradictions and outrageous remarks spring up in such thickets that the sort of moral exhaustion associated with bad soap operas quickly threatens to ensue.” — Michiko Kakutani, “In Books on Donald Trump, Consistent Portraits of a High-Decibel Narcissist,” The New York Times (August 25, 2016)

Yahoo! Movies: “Did Inferno Get Dante Right? We Asked an Expert”

inferno-dante-tom-hanks-deborah-parker“In Inferno, based on the Dan Brown novel, the only thing that stands between humanity and a devastating plague is Robert Langdon’s knowledge of Dante’s Inferno. In reality, if you were trying to outsmart a Dante-obsessed bioterrorist, you’d probably want to ring up Deborah Parker before you called in Tom Hanks. A professor of Italian literature and art at the University of Virginia, Parker is the general editor of the website The World of Dante, a multimedia resource for studying Dante’s 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy (of which Inferno, the author’s imagined journey through the nine levels of Hell, is the first part). She’s also the co-author of Inferno Revealed: From Dante to Dan Brown, which takes a deep dive into the Dante references in Brown’s novel. On the heels of Inferno’s lackluster opening weekend at the box office, Yahoo Movies spoke with Parker about what the film gets right, what it gets very wrong, and why the Map of Hell on Parker’s website is more authentic than the one in the film.” —Yahoo! Movies, “Did Inferno Get Dante Right? We Asked an Expert” (Oct. 31, 2016)

Marco Santagata, Dante: The Story of His Life (2016)

“Unlike Shakespeare, whose corpus one searches in vain for insight into the author’s selfhood, we have abundant access to Dante’s psyche, thanks to the self-editorializing drive in all his major works, from the Vita Nuova to the Convivio to The Divine Comedy. Dante funneled everything—history, truth, cosmos, salvation—through his first-person singular, the famous “I” who finds himself “in the middle of our life’s way” as the poem opens. Yet despite his bold self-exposure, the writing of the Comedy remains a mystery. How did the vision come to him, and how much of it did he have inside his mind when he began writing?

[…]Blake-Three-Beasts-Harrison-Mad-Hell-Santagata-Dante-Story-Life-NYRB

“Marco Santagata, a professor of Italian literature at the University of Pisa, has written an impressive new biography that takes into consideration every bit of reliable and semireliable information available to us about Dante’s life, from his birth in Florence in 1265 to his death in Ravenna in 1321, yet you reach the end of its 485 pages without getting one step closer to understanding how an electrician joined the ranks of Einstein and Fermi. That is because little in Dante’s life story helps us understand how he conceived, composed, and completed the Comedy, this despite the fact that much of what was going on around him at the time found its way into his poem.” — Robert Pogue Harrison, “Dante: He Went Mad in His Hell. Review of Marco Santagata, Dante: The Story of His Life,” New York Review of Books, Oct. 27, 2016

Contributed by Pamela Montanaro

Ben Brantley, “‘Miles for Mary,’ a Sendup of the Interminable Meeting From Hell”

“Though Dante cataloged many forms of diabolical torture in his Inferno, a guided tour of hell, he somehow missed out on what could well be the most excruciating eternal punishment of all. I mean (ominous organ chords, please) the staff meeting that never, ever ends.” –Ben Brantley, “Review: ‘Miles for Mary,’ a Sendup of the Interminable Meeting From Hell,” New York Times, October 9, 2016

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Review of Steven Sherrill, The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time (2016)

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“Ovid describes the Minotaur as ‘part man, part bull,’ half cattle-shaggy, half smooth. Surely this creature deserves a brief campaign bio here: You might remember how, when King Minos’ wife fell hard for a gigantic white bull, their calf-child arrived ­lactose-intolerant, hungry only for human flesh. (I am not making this up, either.) A subterranean maze gets constructed as Minotaur’s cradle and prison. Dante later defamed the creature’s violence with a walk-on role in the Inferno. And only one century ago, Pablo Picasso — boy-­wizard at drawing animals and humans — found the Minotaur allowed both virtuosities concurrently. The horny, weak-eyed ­he-male beast became his ­spirit animal.” — Allan Gurganus, “A Minotaur’s in Maintenance in a Tale of Rust Belt America,” Review of The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time by Steven Sherrill, The New York Times, Sept. 30, 2016

Guy Raffa on Dante and Same-Sex Love

In a response to Rod Dreher’s 2015 book How Dante Can Save Your Life, Guy Raffa (creator of the Danteworlds website) discusses the question of same-sex love in the Comedy:

Raffa-on-Dreher-Dante-Same-Sex-Love-Pop-Matters“In his otherwise fine explication and application of the Divine Comedy, Dreher badly misunderstood—or just plain missed—Dante’s view of same-sex love. […]

“The point can’t be made often or forcefully enough: getting Dante straight means getting him gay, as well. When it comes to the sex or gender of the people we love best, Dante doesn’t give a fig. This is something that Dreher and other serious readers of Dante ought to know.” — Guy Raffa, What Rod Dreher Ought to Know about Dante and Same-Sex Love,” Pop Matters

Barry Strauss, The Death of Caesar (2015)

The Death of CaesarBarry Strauss‘s 2015 book, The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination, investigates Brutus’ assassination of Julius Caesar and how it has been viewed throughout history.

“How can we understand Brutus, a man who, so soon after stabbing Caesar in the name of stopping tyranny, had so reconciled himself to the ways of tyrants? Shakespeare, in the closing lines of ‘Julius Caesar,’ eulogized Brutus (through the words of his foe, Marc Antony) as ‘the noblest Roman of them all’ — the only conspirator moved by love of the Republic rather than envy of Caesar’s power. Dante, by contrast, in the final canto of Inferno, condemned Brutus to be forever chewed by Satan in the lowest circle of hell, alongside Cassius, his accomplice in the sin of betrayal, and Judas Iscariot.”    —The New York Times Sunday Book Review

Uber Reviews for Charon, Boatman of Hades

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SERVING HADES AND THE SURROUNDING AREA
127 Fields of Punishment Ave.

[…]

“✩ ✩ ✩
KAREN T.
He arrived on time, so three stars for that. But he was not very fun. I said, ‘Hey, Charon,’ and he got offended, saying, ‘It’s pronounced “Karen.” ‘ So I was, like, ‘Oh, my God! Shut up! My name is Karen!,’ and then he rolled his burning fire-eyes and melted into the ether and left me there in the middle of the River Styx. Rude.

“✩
LISA M.
Big surprise. Yet another service that won’t take me to Brooklyn.” –Cirocco Dunlap, The New Yorker