Recapping Dante: Canto 17, or Dante Goes to Los Angeles


Arts & Culture

This winter, we’re recapping the InfernoRead along!

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William Blake, Geryon Converting Dante and Virgil Down Towards Malebolge

A transcript from the Dante’s Inferno writers’ room.

Executive Producer: Did everyone get the canto 17 draft Dante sent around?

Writer One: Oh, where do I even start? It’s pretentious, it’s dry, it’s incomprehensible. When it opens, we’re in the third ring of the seventh circle. There’s a serpentine monster the guys meet, but instead of checking it out or slaying it or whatever, Dante forges ahead and talks to some usurer guy who’s wearing a giant bag under his chin. He’s not too chatty, so then the focus turns back to the monster—

Executive Producer: Does the monster have a name?

Writer Two: Geryon.

Executive Producer (mulling this over): That’s a good name.

Writer One: Yeah, but then it gets ridiculous. Virgil and Dante ride on the monster’s back like they’re in Disney World.

Writer Two: Well, they’re in hell. Pretty close. Maybe we can get marketing to pitch a Geryon ride somewhere. 

Writer One: It’s so bizarre that I can guarantee you this entire canto is a giant inside joke between Dante and himself. He was probably sitting there chuckling away when he wrote this. We’re going to lose our slot if we air the episode this way.

Writer Two: We should get him on speakerphone.

Dante (via speakerphone): I’m already here, guys. I’ve been here the whole time. But you’re going to have to speak up—I’m driving and some asshole accidentally flipped his Prius over. There’s just noise everywhere. I’m, like, two feet from a burning body. It’s awesome.

Writer One: Listen, listen—this monster. We should do a bit more exposition on him. Why’s he wearing so many different colors? Why does he have a face, a snake’s body—and paws? It’s hard to picture. Graphics is on our case about it. 

Dante: It’s Geryon. Everyone knows it’s Geryon—that’s his look. The man-snake-paws thing, that’s his trademark. Read a fucking book. 

Executive Producer: How will anybody know who this is? Have you considered who’s watching this channel on Sundays at nine? 

Dante: Are you telling me we need to simplify our show for people who don’t read books? Is that what you want? To end up behooven to a bunch of TV idiots?

Writer Two: I think the word you want is beholden

Dante: The word I want is shut up! I’m not going to the Emmys this year only to get shut out by goddamn House of Cards. We are so much better than that. We are classic. You’re the same guys who made me turn La Vita Nuova into a pandering rom com. That’s not happening again.  I’d rather donate a million dollars to a Ghibelline super PAC than compromise on this. 

Writer Two: We’ll table the monster issue for the moment. 

Dante: Hang on a sec. (Presses a button) Hi, yeah I’d like a hamburger and fries, animal style?

Writer Two: I can’t work like this. I’d rather go back to Weinstein. 

Dante: I’m back, sorry—got an important call from my agent just now. 

Executive Producer: Let’s please just move on. Dante, the writers and I want to know why you thought it was a good idea to have Virgil let Dante go off on his own to talk to sinners unsupervised. 

Dante: Because Virgil is busy taking care of monster things. He can’t take care of monster affairs when he’s busy with telling Dante what to do. 

Writer One: But it’s so strange that it happens all of a sudden. It’s only happened one other time. Dante can’t just do stuff on his own.

Dante: Dante can do whatever I make him. 

Writer One: Well, can you make him do something cool, then? Something that pops? These sinners are so minor, and they have these weird pouch things on their necks—

Dante: They’re usurers. Do you know what subtext is? Do I have to explain this? There’s literally a bidet in my apartment in Florence that’s smarter than you are right now.  Hang on. (Distantly) Can I have more ketchup, please? I want these fries to swim. (At full volume) Hey, guys? I’m at my next meeting now, so I have to go. I’ll call you back. (Disconnects)

Executive Producer: No, Dante, wait! Shit. Can we save this thing? Maybe sex it up somehow? Can we write a female character who seduces Dante?

Writer One: No, we can’t, remember? Dante said we can’t have any romance in the whole show because his character needs to stay dedicated to Beatrice. 

Writer Two: Yeah, the moment he said that our over-forty demographic just vanished.  Thanks a lot, Beatrice. 

Executive Producer: Okay, fuck it. I’m going to get our CGI guy working on making this monster ride the most exciting thing since Lord of the Rings, and I’m gonna see if James Franco will play our sinner. Sound good? And can we, I don’t know, kill someone off? Is that feasible?

Writer Two: Who is there to kill off? They’re all already dead.

Writer One: Except Dante.

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.