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Inferno (A Poet's Novel)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,519 ratings  ·  156 reviews
Loosely following Dante's epic by fashioning her own riveting account into three distinct parts, Eileen Myles brings her unparalleled brand of raw intellect and insight to her latest novel, The Inferno. The first part of the story, mesmerizing readers with its ripple of memoir, tells the saga (or hell) of a poet girl. The second, on the surface, provides instruction on how ...more
Paperback, 271 pages
Published November 1st 2010 by OR Books (first published November 1st 2008)
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Oct 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i remember reading some kim gordon interview where she said rock and roll was paying to watch someone else be free. poetry is the same thing but no one pays and it's more personal and pure because, frankly, no one gives a fuck.

except. except.

this messy, score-settling, no-longer-pure-but-still pure memoir has some heft to it. both the heft of trying for decades worth of personal history and also like it was meant to be done right. unrushed. yet it also has myles' great openness, as if it really
Oct 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poets, queer, i-own, to-re-read
I quite liked this amorphic, slippery little book. Although it wobbled about with it's free-form structure lack-of-structure; it managed to never collapse under itself. It was like an engorged clit. Or a jellyfish on steroids. Slippery; because there's a good five to ten pages towards the end that are saturated with pussy; clits and labia, you'll know it when you hit it, hold on tight. There was one spectacular line elsewhere, "(...) and his pretty little asshole was like a bud when Rene found h ...more
Sep 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I reviewed this book for the Poetry Foundation and right now I have to stop fucking around with Goodreads and answer the factchecker's questions about my review. Anyway, spoiler I give it five stars. Eileen Myles is the god of you.
I loved this book so much I'm not sure I can write an objective review. It was not just a book; for me, it was an experience.

Eileen Myles is a poet. She is gay and from a working class family in Boston. (Both of these facts are relevant to her writing, facts that are important to her and both influence and are contained in her poetry). This book is not a simple one to categorize (you can see how many shelves I put it on!). There is a lot of memoir, although she skips around chronologically and m
I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. The meandering narrative made it hard for me to put it down, but not necessarily in a good way. More of a this is making me anxious and I don't know where it's going so I can't stop kind of a way. Glad I read it though. Plus the last page really spoke to me. I have a hard time leaving parties too. Eileen Myles thinks a poem is like a party. I think a lot of things are like a party.
The subtitle "A Poet's Novel" makes me wonder what makes it different from say, "a novelist's novel" or "an artist's novel." Is it the gonzo approach to grammar, flow, story, and dialogue? Hmmm. Maybe that's it. Myles plays/writes using her own rules. If I were her editor I think my head would explode (after about 20 pages, I probably would realize: Oh, this is art. This is uneditable. This is freaking Eileen Myles!).
I like how this is essentially a memoir with the N-word ("novel") attached to i
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-memoir
One of those books that I highlight until the pages become watercolor paintings. A dreamy winding account of the author's young adulthood with vivid flashes of lucid existential clarity. Lulled me into amused complacent spectatorship only to knock me off my feet into a chasm of truth again and again.
Nov 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't want to say too much because I want you to read it. I will say it Has a Part at the End. When I was done reading the Part I closed the book and hit it five times against the wall. It damn near killed me. You will see.

RIP Lola
"Myles, Eileen. Inferno: A Poet's Novel. (2010) pp228-236"
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this for class, and of all the assigned novels it was the one I most expected to like. But it's the one I like the least.

It's not fiction, for starters, and that bugs me in a class for writing fiction. The author is a poet and it's the story of her poetic life. I am not that literary a writer. I am not overly-enamored of literary events. Just the same way I suppose I prefer musicals to straight plays; I am easily bored.
This book has a very long chapter detailing readings the autho
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-fiction
this is such a good read for a time in my life where I am trying to figure out how to be a poet. here are some quotations I like from it about poetry so I can save them and also return this to the library because it's due tomorrow:

p. 52: "Poetry readings were like early teevee in that everyone had their own little show. Though teevee got more sophisticated (worse) poetry never did. It remains stupid, run by fools. It's the only way to hold it open."

p. 108: "I mean and I would definitely say poet
"Everything was pathetic and it wouldn't stop. I'm a mess. And I could show how that looked. I resigned myself to continuous movement. Like I'm drawing. Like if there is "a form" it exists independent of me, or else I'm complicit in it. I'm wandering in it. Underlining. Changing horses all the time. And each decision left a mark.
And I lay there in the hot New York night writing my poem to Alice, to Susie, to everyone I knew--about being--not in literature, not in relation to some historical for
Casey Bell
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I borrowed her and she borrowed me from our lives."

thanks for letting me borrow ur life for a bit too...everyone should borrow eileen's life / inferno just saying...
Filipa Calado
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because it's about lesbians and poetry. Both of which I like a lot. On this it did not disappoint.

The story itself is very messy--good and bad. At first I was into it (how could I not be, when it begins by describing her English professor's ass); each section kind of creating it's own little world. Myles paints a good picture of mid 70s-90s New York City, and of the struggling poet trying to find a way to express herself. But in the middle section, which is framed as a gran
Elisabeth Watson
One reaches for some version of the hackneyed phrase: so perfect in its imperfection. My astonishment, for myself anyway, feels new: I can't remember the last time I loved a work of literature that's so MESSY. I think the 3 parts stand better on their own than together, but Myles has so much swagger that if she says these are her inferno, puragatorio, and paradiso, I buy it.

The great (perhaps healing) joy of Inferno is hearing a woman say EXACTLY the things I have needed to say for as long as I
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, queer, poetry, memoir
I mean, what can I say about this book? I wanted to underline every second paragraph or so. EM combines a natural facility for storytelling, hooky, humorous anecdote, and the intellectual & metaphysical brilliance one would expect from a poet of her stature. But what is especially excellent about this book, the factor that will make it worth returning to, is its risky quality - its refusal to stick to a linear narrative, its depiction of a life lived around corners - the suggestion that this ...more
Lori Ortiz
Apr 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a moving memoir I'd call literature. It is full of memorable psychological insight, plainspoken, inevitable prose, surprising candor, and even some humor. "Inferno" reveals the nuts and bolts of Myles's poetry. It is a coming out story set mostly in downtown NYC where she lived and crafted her writing. This book affirms her estimable wisdom. The cover pencil drawing was at first inexplicable, but its meaning unfolded with the reading. Recommended for anyone curious about this woman-about ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Myles, a likable guide, leads readers on a tour of the NYC's downtown poetry/art scene of the '70s & '80s. Unlike Dante's inferno, Manhattan's inferno is more heavenly than hellish, a place where artists can afford to live and hang out with other artists producing art! Thanks to Myles' wild use of language I often had no idea what she was talking about, but nearly as often she illuminated tiny slivers of reality with both perceptive brilliance and beauty.
Feb 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Så märkligt ojämn och repetativ. Dock mycket glad att ha läst.

Uppskattar man droppande av namn som Kathy Acker, Raymond Pettibon, Andy Warhol, Patti Smith så finns mycket att hämta. I övrigt cirkulerar texten kring skapandeprocess och sexualitet, med ett 70-taligt New York ständigt närvarande i bakgrunden.
Zoe Tuck
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just the thing to read when you leave a place and a scene you've been in for years. I wasn't ready for it in 2010 but I am now.
Octavia Cade
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
I don't really know what I was expecting when I picked this up. It's got an interesting premise, and though it's ostensibly a novel it reads more like memoir. It's hard not to think that this novel about a poet isn't influenced by the life of the poet who wrote it. Granted, I wasn't familiar with Myles before this, so I don't know how much of this comes from real life and how much is made up out of whole cloth, but I suspect it's weighted heavily to the former.

And, you know, I enjoyed it. I don'
I have a new poet crush and it's Eileen Myles. Of course, I will always have the biggest poet crush on Patti Smith, but yeah, I have a new one or maybe another one and it is on Eileen Myles. This is a memoir about their life in New York in what I like to think was its hey day. When it was filled with people who were writers, poets and artists and queers. They weren't rich and they didn't have a lot of money. They didn't need to at that time. This is the New York I missed cause I am too young and ...more
this gave me hella whiplash and raging anxiety. But in a good way!

I didn't get this at first — I think I took the term novel too literally when in reality this is just a series of essays, memoirs and poetry spanning years; not in chronological order (without any semblance of order, really) and total disregard for the rules of grammar.

Once I worked that out I could let myself enjoy this for what it is: pure art. unedited rambling prose, flow, performance in vivid and meandering text and it was ma
3.5 stars.

I've been in, like, major avoidance-mode with my review-writing lately. Every time I attempted to write some kind of coherent review for Eileen Myles's Inferno I ended up hitting the "Cancel changes" button at the bottom of the page. BUT NOT THIS TIME, MY FRIENDS.

When I read Inferno, sometimes I thought it was really brilliant and, like, achingly beautiful (HOW INSANE IS THIS? But the subway was always the best. A train pulled into the station in 1972 and it was the dirtiest most decor
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had not read any of Eileen's work before but was so impressed with this book i'm sure I will in the future! She has a wonderful eye for detail, you get under her skin in this book, it's a biography of sorts but the kind of biography I love, it doesn't just take you through the day to day, it delves into the mind, the thoughts that are running through her brain as she deals with life in New York in the 70s. She lives in an apartment in New York, meets the great and good who reside there, It alw ...more
Althea J.
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite things about listening to this book on audiobook: On the page, there is a clear visual distinction between the prose and a poem that Myles had included. When listening, the distinction wasn't nearly as clear and I loved how the prose became one big poem in my mind. Sometimes there would be a subtle shift and the words would flow more liquidly, or the wording would become more abstract. I would find myself reading deeper into what she was saying. And I would check in with my bo ...more
Matthew Gallaway
I loved Inferno because to me it represents a perfect antidote—a kind of artistic redemption—to the depressing tedium that so often accompanies two-dimensional declarations of being gay in a civil rights era. To read Inferno, in which Myles decides to become a poet and a lesbian (or to re-invent herself, which I believe is why it’s called a “novel” and not a memoir)—and she uses the word “career” to describe both choices, which is painful, hilarious, and not exactly PC in the manner of much of t ...more
Tim Looney
Aug 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've yet to read Dante's Inferno. Eileen Myles is my introduction to Infernos.

This book reads as one long, beautiful, sexy poem in three parts. Myle's voice is gripping from the opening line. A poetic memoir. A coming out story. Eileen comes out both as a poet and as a lesbian in a time when both poets and lesbians were outsiders.

It was also a time period where the arts were still funded in the U.S. Grants were given to support projects by musicians, painters, sculptors, poets. Unfortunately t
Nov 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
I read this because I heard it had a lot of sex in it, and due to some kind of error the publisher sent it to me for free. Other times I tried to read Eileen Myles I couldn't get past the feeling that she was full of it in the bad way, but in this book she seemed more sympathetic because there are parts about being young and not knowing a lot, and there is that great line about being an old crappy dyke with half a brain leaking a book. There wasn't as much sex as I was hoping but still some pret ...more
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok so there's this weird arms race to write going on where everyone is trying to produce the great lower east side bohemian memoir. Richard Hell, Patti Smith, and Kim Gordon have all given it a shot. The secret is though that Eileen Myles already did it in 2010 and it's weirder and better written and more interesting then any of those books. Or maybe I just am more interested in poets these days then rock musicians. It's sort of a coming out novel, sort of a coming of age novel, sort of a gossip ...more
Apr 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
“My English professor’s ass was so beautiful. It was perfect and full as she stood at the board writing some important word.” And so began Inferno (A Poet’s Novel) by Eileen Myles. The aforementioned opening, instantly one of my favorites, grabbed me and never let go. Inferno claims to be a poet’s novel, also known as a Künstlerroman, but it felt more like a dishy artist memoir. It’s raw, compelling and highly quotable. Myles manages to pull off the ultimate memoir-novel in true, uncompromising, ...more
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Eileen Myles is a poet, novelist, performer and art journalist. Their twenty books include Afterglow (a dog memoir), a 2017 re-issue of Cool for You and I Must Be Living Twice/new and selected poems, and Chelsea Girls. Eileen is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andy Warhol/Creative Capital Arts Writers grant, four Lambda Book Awards, and the Shelley Prize from the PSA. In 2016, Myles r ...more
“If passion was a substance I would say it is dark brown, and then blood red. It's like wet grass, tons of it soaked in mud. It's warm and it stinks like shit and it's unaccountably and endlessly good. It's thick and it goes on for miles and it isn't so much deep as bottomless and it holds you in its grip, you never drown. And then it goes. That's all you know.” 18 likes
“All the details of my life were in exact order and yet I was tumbling in them-out of order like a tremendous wave had hit me and I was thrown off the ship and I awoke or dreaming, or dead I knew not-no I couldn't speak.” 9 likes
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