Since the whole Divine Comedy is so long, I thought I would post a review now that I have finished just the Inferno. I also want to note that the tran...moreSince the whole Divine Comedy is so long, I thought I would post a review now that I have finished just the Inferno. I also want to note that the translation I read was by John Ciardi, not this one, but Goodreads didn't seem to have the Ciardi one available to add or review. A lot of my praise for the work has to do with Ciardi's impeccable and compelling translation, so I wish I could have added that version.
Where to begin? This is truly an epic, and it is one that I am glad I waited to read until now. I am very glad that I read Lewi's biography of Dante first, and that I had background knowledge from reading the Bible, studying medieval history, and reading some classics of Greek literature. Even still, I have not ever read the Iliad, and I have only started reading the Aeneid because of reading Dante. Reading the Aeneid now as well is very much helping me understand more of the Divine Comedy. Also, Ciardi's introductions to each Canto and footnotes make some many points of Dante's genius more readily available to a reader like myself.
The story itself, as everyone knows, is an allegory of the Christian life. The Inferno is all about Dante experiencing but also rejecting sin. He pulls no punches in his often gory detail, and is not at all abashed to put his least favorite acquaintances and contemporaries in various pits of hell. But everything that he describes is told with masterful effect, and Ciardi's translation does an excellent job of preserving this.
On that note, a word about the translation. He keep the rhyme scheme from the original Italian as close as he can in English. I believe it is known as terza rima. So each stanza is ABA. Ciardi's command of English to maintain the story as well as the rhyme is unbelievable. Ciardi also works hard to preserve idioms, and if he cannot, he tells us how he tried and failed but still gives us an explanation of what Dante's original idiom had been.
It is hard to describe why The Inferno is so good, other than to say that Dante thought about EVERYTHING he wrote. Nothing is out of place or done arbitrarily.
I would certainly support the notion, although I am not a master reader of world literature, that we could all be fine in life if we read Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, and little else for our literary consumption. We certainly haven't had enough time separating us from anyone since Shakespeare to put anyone else into that group.(less)
I was browsing some lists of classic Christmas books to add to my favorite rotation (The Box of Delights, A Christmas Carol, several devotionals, and...moreI was browsing some lists of classic Christmas books to add to my favorite rotation (The Box of Delights, A Christmas Carol, several devotionals, and The Christmas Story book), and I came across this one. While it is shorter than the others, it is a wonderful piece of Christmas lore that puts you squarely in Wales in the interwar time period. This edition has wonderful illustrations that really bring it to life. I very much enjoyed this short story, which famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas performed live on the radio. And apparently, there is even a BBC version, which is on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrLDaA... (less)
Another master class by Bill Bryson. This is a very concise and helpful biography of Shakespeare, that quite definitely urges us to remember how littl...moreAnother master class by Bill Bryson. This is a very concise and helpful biography of Shakespeare, that quite definitely urges us to remember how little we actually know about the Bard and yet also to remember that any idea that anyone other than Shakespeare wrote his works is preposterous at best, and scholarly deceit at worst.
Reading the book definitely made me want to get back into more Shakespeare, so I checked out several audio versions of the plays today at the library. I think I have only read Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Much Ado about Nothing, and parts of Julius Caesar. Lots more to go!
Bryson has a remarkable ability to dive into the research of something about which he is not a "specialist". In so doing, he dilutes a lot of the best scholarship out there, and makes it accessible to the rest of us. You can tell that he really gets into his projects and is consumed by it for some time while he writes.
One really cool thing for me is that now that I have read enough Bryson, I can start to see how all of his various research for different books combines to form the body of knowledge he needed to write other books. For example, his study of the 16th century and 17th century for this book undoubtedly helped him write At Home.(less)
This was a perfect follow up to reading the history of Alfred. Chesterton makes no claim to be doing history with his epic poem, but instead uses the...moreThis was a perfect follow up to reading the history of Alfred. Chesterton makes no claim to be doing history with his epic poem, but instead uses the story of Alfred as a backdrop to draw a picture of pre-Norman England as a mosaic of Celtic, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon life and culture. The Danes are not mocked or ridiculed either.
I had not read any lengthy poetry by Chesterton yet, and it was well-worth it. Chesterton is just so prolific. (less)
Apart from the blatant 19th century racist attitudes about how Anglo-Saxons are supposedly better than other races, this book was satisfactory in its...moreApart from the blatant 19th century racist attitudes about how Anglo-Saxons are supposedly better than other races, this book was satisfactory in its account of Alfred. I'll certainly take it for a free online book until I can get a hold of the Justin Pollard book.(less)