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Arts & Culture

Fall Sweeps

September 30, 2013 | by


Something is gnawing at the nape of your skull: on the one hand, your favorite fall shows are coming back. But you just read an article about synaptic pruning, the process by which your brain eliminates neurons that don’t get any exercise. And whether or not there’s any truth to this neurological use-it-or-lose-it theory, you’ve nonetheless come to the conclusion that your brain is on the brink of self-destruction. Which is to say: it will get rid of every neuron that hasn’t got anything to do with watching Netflix, looking at Buzzfeed, or eating food that’s terrible for you past 3 A.M.

You want to watch Boardwalk Empire—what will happen to Nucky Thompson, or Richard Harrow? You want to catch up on The Walking Dead, but then you remember that synaptic pruning, and a frightening question about the difference between you and an actual zombie floats through your head.

The convenience of hour-long shows is that they often air on Sunday night, when you have nothing to do. We have a compromise. Don’t spend an hour on the latest would-be cable sensation; instead, tune in for the first season of The Divine Comedy, the hot, new (relatively speaking) series by Dante. Every week, ideally on Sunday at 9 P.M., read one canto—often less than 140 lines!—of what may be the best poem ever written. Season 1 is called the Inferno—think of it as your new Home Box Office.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a teaser with fast cuts and a voice over about one man’s trip through hell that can be embedded into this post, but here are some positive early reviews:

“Dante’s masterpiece is one of the supreme works of art that the ages have witnessed.” —Theodore Roosevelt

“I love Dante almost as much as the Bible. He is my spiritual food, the rest is ballast.” —James Joyce

“Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third.” —T. S. Eliot

And just as every landmark show requires a thorough recap (had you really seen an episode of Mad Men until a a blogger pointed out all the “themes”?), so too will we bring you Dante recaps every week. Go to Barnes & Noble, or BookCourt, or use your parents’ Amazon Prime membership, and pick up the Inferno. We prefer the Hollander translation. The premiere is this Sunday.

To catch up on our Dante series, click here.

Alexander Aciman is the author of Twitterature. He has written for the New York Times, Tablet, the Wall Street Journal, and TIME. Follow him on Twitter at @acimania.




  1. Kevin C Dorney | September 30, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Looking forward to it.
    “Cosi discesi del cerchio primaio”

  2. Erik Heywood | September 30, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Great idea! I just picked up my as-yet-unread copy yesterday (which I’ve had for years) & thought “Maybe it’s time to read this…”. Looking forward to reading along with the Paris Review & seeing the recaps! (Hope my Ciaran Carson translation will suffice…)

  3. Drew | September 30, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    The entire office thinks I’m weird, I wasn’t invited to any of the season ending parties of Breaking Bad because I’ve never seen a single episode, and when they ask me why, I tell them: I’m done with Moby-dick, I’m re-readin the works of Faulkner, and Absalom Absalom! Is just getting good, and the latest blog on the Paris Review has me enthralleed…… They, at work, don’t believe I am impervious to popular culture, nobody could survive this kind of life… Which is exactly what I think of them!

  4. Paula | October 1, 2013 at 10:01 am


  5. Shelley | October 1, 2013 at 10:49 am

    The most lovable thing about TR is how he loved, truly loved, books.

  6. tom may | October 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Shelley: and you believe him?

  7. Carole Brooks Platt, PhD | October 1, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    I’m so prone to reading what I want to see, I actually thought there was a series on Dante about to air. I even posted it to Facebook and was immediately corrected by an astute friend who was able to decipher the actual words versus the reality I had hoped to encounter on Sunday nights: someone to actually explain The Divine Comedy to me. It’s been sitting on my shelves for years too . . . Still, great post for the Paris Review, which never lets me down. P.S. to Drew: I just discovered a great interview with Faulkner the Paris Review did in 1956. My husband is reading Absalom Absalom for a class. I remember saying it was my favorite book for years especially because of what I remember as “the lack,” which could be interpreted as the lack of periods, but I believe it was more metaphysical, less Joycean, Proustian, than that. Now, I have no idea what that is about or where it was in the book. Maybe it was another book by a completely different author. Who knows, given my misreading of the Dante show.

  8. Drew | October 1, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Carole Brooks Platt PhD: I have read the PR 1956 interview, thank you. The lure of Faulkner’s works, for me, in part is his style:

    “And what style it is, to be sure! The exuberant and tropical luxuriance of sound which Jim Europe’s jazz band used to exhale, like a jungle of rank creepers and ferocious blooms taking shape before one’s eyes,–magnificently and endlessly intervolved, glisteningly and ophidiantly in motion, coil sliding over coil, and leaf and flower forever magically interchanging..” –Conrad Aiken. The Novel as Form.

    Although perhaps also Faulkner’s work as a whole, and not dissimilar to Dante’s work, if you consider the Inferno, as Dr. C. G. Jung believed, “hell represents, among every culture, the disturbing aspect of the collective unconscious,” speaks of the trials and travails of humanity as a collective whole.

  9. Ian Whittingham | October 8, 2013 at 5:44 am

    “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” Peter Greenaway’s TV blockbuster from 1991

  10. Tim | October 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    This is incredible! And the recaps are amazing! I would drool over a whole blog of this. Hope you continue this after Divine Comedy!

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