Posts Tagged ‘Dante’
April 6, 2012 | by The Paris Review
“Some poems smack of a gentility one would like in some moods to smack out of them.” Even before I read that sentence—about the sainted Elizabeth Bishop!—I knew Maureen McLane was the poetry teacher for me. Her first book of criticism, My Poets, is the survey course of my dreams: a long, loving argument with and about everyone from Chaucer to Gertrude Stein. As befits her subject, McLane is both plainspoken and lyrical, falling at times, as if naturally, into verse as clear as her prose. —Lorin Stein
I remember a college professor commenting that he was never sure Stephen Crane “knew what he was doing” when he dropped all sorts of clues and oddness into his stories. I had the same thought while reading Barbara Comyns's 1959 book, The Vet's Daughter. Does all this strangeness serve a purpose? Does the bizarre ending mean something? Whether the answer is yes or no, I still enjoyed the novel more than anything I’ve read in months, and I’ve already ordered the rest of her books. —Sadie Stein
Robert Caro—never disappointing—had a particularly good piece in the April 2 edition of The New Yorker, on John F. Kennedy’s assassination but from LBJ’s perspective. It’s a bizarre and fascinating tale of how history is formed both by monumental events and by intimate details. And that famous photograph of his swearing in—as he stands grim-faced and flanked by Lady Bird and Jackie—will never look the same to me again. —Nicole Rudick
It wasn’t the intimidating length or experimental style that had me wondering, Wait, what?, when reading Finnegans Wake. It was my damned curiosity about the “careful teacakes” that Joyce introduces. My foodie heart salivated at the thought—where do I get one of those? Luckily, I stumbled upon A Trifle, a Coddle, a Fry: An Irish Literary Cookbook last weekend and was thrilled to find a recipe for these mysterious treats alongside sixty-six other recipes gathered from food references in the writing of twelve Irish authors, including Beckett and Shaw. Crack it open for a satisfying literary and gastronomic adventure, and let the sating begin. —Elizabeth Nelson
Masha Gessen’s The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin has kept me up the last three nights. —L.S.
This week I attended a reading of Dante’s Inferno inside Saint John the Divine cathedral, a massive Gothic-revival church near Columbia University. If you missed it, mark the date. It happens annually on Maundy Thursday (which, for those needing to brush up on their Christian calendar, commemorates the day of the Last Supper). It was awesome, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. A wooden pew is really the only place one should learn about Hell. —Allison Bulger
September 12, 2011 | by Rosamond Bernier
When the French fashion houses began to open again in 1946–47 after World War II and the occupation, American magazines thought it worthwhile to send people over to report on them. I was one of those people. I edged into the fashion world almost sideways. I thought I was going to write art features when I was recruited by Vogue. But Mrs. Chase thought otherwise, and her word was law.
I found myself on one of those first transatlantic flights that stopped over for the night at Gander, Newfoundland, to refuel. You rested, fully dressed, in one of a line of cots in a kind of barracks. My immediate neighbors were a group of Dominican monks—Italian, no English. I had studied Italian a long time ago in college but had had no opportunity to practice. I could only remember a few lines of Dante, about returning from hell, not much of a conversational opener. I tried it out, anyhow, and got a gratifying response.
My traveling companion was a small, angelic, and gifted artist who was the magazine’s dessinateur. He went under the name of Eric. My entire professional training was a hissed injunction as I left for the airport: “Keep Eric sober.” Keeping Eric sober turned out to be a major project, but if his gait was sometimes unsteady, his line never wavered. Read More »
July 21, 2011 | by The Paris Review
The cult of Shakespeare is one of the weirdest and most persistent in literature. This spring, Arthur Phillips and Stephen Marche each published books on the obsession. Phillips’s novel The Tragedy of Arthur portrays the son of a con man who attempts to establish whether a quarto of a lost Shakespeare play—reproduced in stunning convincingness in the book—was actually written by Shakespeare. Stephen Marche’s How Shakespeare Changed Everything confronts the various ways that Shakespeare has affected everything, from sex to the English language, the assassination of Lincoln, and the mania for skulls on clothing. They discussed their various journeys into the heart of this cult by e-mail.
Recently a South African archeologist named Francis Thackeray—which to me sounds like the most made-up real name ever—proposed digging up Shakespeare’s body so he could tell whether Shakespeare smoked pot. Two questions occured to me when the story emerged: Why the hell do people keep wanting to dig up Shakespeare? And isn’t there something better we could do with his body than tell whether he smoked pot?
Let’s just stipulate that he did smoke pot. Constantly. Now what? What does that tell us about his working habits? About his daily life? What does that tell us about the plays, poems, et cetera? About Elizabethan theatrical life? Nothing. All it does is make it easier for some despairing high school teachers to feel like they can now “connect” with their kids.
I know. I sort of feel that way at every biographical revelation about Shakespeare. If he was a pot smoker, does that explain how he wrote “Light thickens, and the crows make way to the rooky wood”? I know many, many pot smokers. They do not remind me of Shakespeare. But I felt that way even with Greenblatt’s Will in the World. Lets give him a title: “Catholic.” So what? If he was a Catholic he was just about the most unusual Catholic who ever lived. People seem to want to reduce him, to avoid the mystery of him.