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In the Hand of Dante

3.15  ·  Rating details ·  918 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Deep inside the Vatican library, a priest discovers the rarest and most valuable art object ever found: the manuscript of The Divine Comedy, written in Dante's own hand. Via Sicily, the manuscript makes its way from the priest to a mob boss in New York City, where a writer named Nick Tosches is called to authenticate the prize. For this writer, the temptation is too great: ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Back Bay Books (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.15  · 
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 ·  918 ratings  ·  108 reviews

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Mar 06, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dante, fiction
Do you like to be insulted and offended?

Do you enjoy plots that go nowhere?

Do you love to read long rants of self-indulgent whining and hypocrisy?

Do you prefer characters who grow slower than a shark fetus develops into a shark? (The shortest known gestation rate for a shark is 4-5 months for a bonnethead shark, the longest gestation rate is probably that of the Frilled Shark at 3-4 years, just so you have some perspective.)

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, congratulations,
Suzanne Stroh
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
I wanted to put this book down after five pages of first-person narration by a violent, misogynistic misanthrope. But I couldn't. I was outraged, I was offended, and I was...still reading...and paying full attention.

In the tradition of Dante and de Sade, this novel about obsession and lust is engrossing, haunting, and I found it sucking me in almost against my will. A tour de force about corruption on a vast scale that makes The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco seem sophomoric.

The darkness and v
Phil James
I'm going to give up on this one. Life's too short to listen to all this foul-mouthed egotistical babble.
I get the point, the author inhabits the caricature of himself to play with your mind and undermine the foundations of "literature" and the publishing industry, but I just got bored.
Jun 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It was my birthday in 2002. I had rec'd a gift card to a local indie bookseller ( we miss you Hawley-Cooke) and I happily went to buy this. They were sold out. I bought instead Prague by Arthur Phillips which was quite the rave at the time and had the added interest of my impending trip to Eastern Europe. A friend of mine was cheating on his wife at the time. he went to another local and bought me a copy. He was a good friend. Was he buying my silence about his activities? I first read Prague an ...more
Susan Emmet
May 13, 2013 rated it liked it

Wish I knew more Latin, Greek, Hebrew. Wish that Tosches could find a synonym for "fuck."
Wish that the novel moved more...sequentially?
Interweaving the story of Dante/Via Nuova/The Divine Comedy with semi-autobiographical Nick Tosches (thief and murderer and misanthrope and yearner for things good and bad) is amazing though.
Obvious that Tosches is well-schooled in all things medieval.
But somehow this novel falls short of great.
Tosches' ego intrudes.
The novel resonates with Cormac McCarthy and U
Jason Pettus
Jun 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

This book originally came to my attention after reading the 2000 nonfiction piece The Last Opium Den, in which edgy novelist Nick Tosches was sent by Vanity Fair magazine to rural Asia on the eve of the millennium, to find out if any honest-to-God opium dens still actually exist anywhere in the world
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This novel is more of a compilation of fantasies and speculations than it is plot-driven; oddly enough, I did not find this off-putting in the least. After braving the peculiar first line, I found myself sucked into Tosches's brilliant prose, his wit, his honesty, and his couldn't-care-less attitude to the opinions of the entire world. Since reading this book, I've read his short book of poems ("Chaldee," which is utterly fascinating in its enigmatic, but egotistical and infuriating, mix of Fren ...more
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Nick Tosches is the darkness and the light shining forth from the darkness. It’s as if he is the embodiment of Jung’s statement, “We do not become enlightened by imagining beings of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” "In The Hand of Dante" is a unique thing of beauty. It is a work of art unto itself that nothing being written today can touch. The vulgar edges of the text itself are beauty.

Tosches is a literate writer which will make him challenging for the average general reader. But,
Seth Lindsey
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
Okay, time for a revised, and reevaluated review: In the Hand of Dante is a wildly inconsistent novel. It shifts so radically in prose that it sometimes makes you wonder if it was written by one person, or by several. I undersand that this was intended, there were two story lines weaving in and out of the story, but I felt as I read that the execution had been faulted.
It felt like two separate novels had been glued together in such a way that it grinded against its plot, and took you from the
Anya Wassenberg
Nov 24, 2011 rated it liked it
This is the kind of book that makes literary critics swoon (my edition begins with three pages of quotes from swooning critics!) but most of the time, judging from many of the critiques here including my own, just doesn't connect with its readers. Like many of the previous reviewers, I was tempted to give up half way through, but was reluctant to pass judgment without reading the whole thing.

Yes, he's a great writer in the sense that he can deftly manipulate the English language, it's just that.
Feb 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary, grit-lit, crime
I would suggest this book for people who enjoy old world literature, but who also like gritty crime reads. It was ambitious, challenging, disturbing, and yes, occasionally overblown and annoying. Still, I'm happy to have tackled this beast. As a subject, Dante Alighieri is obviously near and dear to Nick. This evident in the heavily romanticized passages dedicated to Dante as a character, not to mention the almost anachronistic prose during these passages, which I thought was very beautiful and ...more
Dawn (& Ron)
Had this on my cannot decide to WL but had it in my TBR pile, that speaks volumes! I don't just turn away a book without giving it a shot.

The book summary didn't grab me anymore, not sure why. To be fair, I tried reading a sampling to give me an idea. On the first page there is so much cursing that I'm already turned off by the second paragraph. I don't care for that rough in your face style. Do I want to continue this, well let me check some more? Then I came across this sentence which seemed
Cindy Jackson
Mar 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
This has to be the worst book I have ever read. I generally have an open mind about books. I'm good at suspending my disbelief. And there are very few books that I have put down and never finished. Unfortunately, I finished this one. I just couldn't believe that it could possibly be so bad, I kept thinking it had to get better. I can't really put my finger on what made it so horrible, but I was really annoyed about how the author wrote himself in as the main character. Beyond that, maybe it was ...more
May 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, commentary
This book is a fascinating work on the lives of Dante Aligiheri and Nick Tosches. Nick takes on a subject like Dean Martin, or the Vatican Bank, Sonny Liston or Paradise Lost and makes it his own. His books are intricately detailed, incredibly well-written, and alternately mind-expanding and mind-blowing. I think this is my favorite of all of his works I have read, because anyone serious about literature comes to the Aligiheri well sooner or later, wishing to channel that elusive afflatus that d ...more
Mar 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this, but it is not for everyone. In fact I think it is aimed at a small crowd consisting of those who like Dante and can enjoy some grit and crime and profanity along with complex, sometimes very complex, writing. At the least a very unique book. Give it a try, you will know quickly if this works for you or not. ,
Might want to read some Marlowe first!
Feb 19, 2011 rated it did not like it
I'm going to guess Nick Tosches is single because I do not think ANYONE would be able to tolerate this foulmouthed egocentric asshole. it really upsets me to think of all the tress cut down to print this tripe.
do not let yourself be sucked in by the somewhat intriguing premise as I was
Jul 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
I ahve to admit I gave up on this book. It felt to me as if the author's need to display his erudition was more important than the story at hand. If I wanted to learn Latin...I would have learned Latin! ...more
Jul 24, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
It sounded absolutely fascinating, but I got about 50 pages in before I gave up. Boring, vulgar, didn't move *at all*. Avoid. ...more
Jan 15, 2010 marked it as unfinished-abandoned
Unrated for reasons of "fuck it, reading this book is a waste of brain cells I could be spending on pretty much anything else." ...more
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Mind-blowing. Love it when an author is courageous enough to write an unsympathetic protagonist. Gangrena...
Rebecca Cresswell
May 24, 2021 rated it did not like it
really don't get this book at all. ...more
Beatriz Coimbra
Oct 18, 2022 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I should get an award for having the will and strengh to finish this book.
Daniel Quinn
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A surging tempest of poetic lyricism and insanity. “The only way to paradise begins in hell.”
Jan 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
One of two books ever, I believe, that I didn’t finish. Maybe read 100 pages before I asked myself why and threw it in the donation pile. I feel guilty about that as some poor soul probably shelled out $1.89 at Goodwill for this trash. And then some poor soul after him did likewise after the first few dozen pages. Hopefully it’s served to line a bird cage by now. Just dreadful.
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
The book cover said some would like this book and some would not. I fall in to the
would not. I was expecting more information about the Vatican and the secret archives
there. I was not expecting so very many swear words or mafia type killings!
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Would that I could.
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
If you have just spent all your life trying to find a novel that is a mash up of the Dan Brown type self-insert, fun pseudo-history adventure and the Brett Easton Ellis "I'm EDGY but really I just LOVE violence especially if it is targeted at women," then this book is for YOU!

For all his faults, I generally like Dan Brown. For all his talent, I generally hate Brett Eason Ellis. "American Psycho" was one of the most useless, tasteless, pointlessly degenerative novels I've ever read, and I was ap
Jeffrey Swenson
Jul 11, 2022 rated it it was amazing
🎭 Two storylines make up In the Hand of
Dante. In 14th century Italy, Dante toils to write The Divine Comedy encouraged by a patron. In 2001, a mostly fictional version of Nick Tosches is asked to investigate and steal an antique book. Dante struggles with life’s meaning and is often tormented by the desire to finish the book. Nick is writer and thief struggling to find inspiration and the desire to write again.

🎭 In the Hand of Dante is a dark literary work that takes some effort. The story is r
I had started this ages ago.......Louie grossed me out, answer I pUT it down. Then we were visiting our friend Willie Alexander, musician, painter, writer, at his home in Gloucester, where he took us into his library room. He had a big Tosches section. We talked about Tosches, and so, I decided to give it a go again.
Dante was a complete asshole.
Most reviews go on about Tosches, and I get that.He's not stupid that guy, and part of what I think makes the book so difficult to read is the fact he's
Delaney Turner
Nov 24, 2021 rated it liked it
Tosches writes with unmatched swagger and command of his craft. And here he marries his knowledge of New York's less savory characters with a profound scholarship in medieval history, politics and theology that I didn't know he had.

I'm glad I read it. There are marvelously written scenes and vivid characterizations and it's fun to speculate about Dante's state of mind when he wrote the Divine Comedy. But I will also admit to skipping over lot of the last 50 or so pages to get through to the res
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Nick Tosches was an American journalist, novelist, biographer, and poet. His 1982 biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, Hellfire, was praised by Rolling Stone magazine as "the best rock and roll biography ever written." ...more

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