Aug 31, 2009
The Pleasure Gardens of Hell (reading Dante's Inferno)
Although Dante's Inferno doesn't quite use the exact words pleasure garden, that's definately the idea that comes across. It talks about "sweet brooks" bubbling along, and "green meadows" in a certain part of Hell. A level reserved for the "virtuous pagans" especially the great thinkers and heros of the Roman world (and assumedly others of a similar nature). Despite all their comforts, these damned are indeed officially listed as suffering "piteously" but none of that anguish was in evidence to this reader. They lived in a dome (my word) of light and warmth and pleasantness. A Citadel in the book. The commentaries say that the bright garden represents the power of Human Reason, even within Hell.
To me, this is very disagreeable. Even accepting that this is fiction, it's a very strange concept. In part, I guess Dante couldn't bear to assign his personal ideal personages from the ancient world (Virgil and Aeneis) to a suffering eternity. Moreover, he ascribes far too much power to Human Reason, and/or God's respect thereof. I am personally confused about how God will ultimately treat so-called "virtuous pagans," but I have no doubt in my mind that the power of Human Reason doesn't have that kind of influence.
On the other hand, why am I taking this so seriously? Who was Dante to speak for the whole of Catholicism in the 1300s? Today, many many novels and movies have their protagonist somehow encounter the afterlife. I certainly wouldn't want contemporary theology judged according to "Bruce Almighty".
I would definately like to seek out some good commetaries on Dante, especially Catholic reaction near that time. Maybe I can find a friendly college student with access to JSTOR....
I'm only about a fourth into the Inferno, which is only the first third of Dante's Comedia (Divine Comedy). I will have to keep eveyone updated.
If you've noticed, my reading record closely coresponds to the various upsets in my life. This is less due to stress releif than the extra time on my hands.
Aug 26, 2009
currently just finished 'Moby Dick'
Wow, I've been very busy lately. I clearly haven't blogged in a very long time. And I STILL haven't read Ashenden!
Since my last blog, quite a few things have happened, professionally and literarily (is that even a word?)
I will make a further blog about my hurried exodus from Tulsa, and other life changed events, but in the meantime, I've learned....
The Borg are now planning annihilation, not just assimilation. (ST:Destiny)
The White Whale is better left alone; and Pip jumped again (I finished 'Moby Dick', and learned that to Melville, the whale is a fish, albeit a very strange one. I, for one, do not have the presumption to argue with Melville about whales)
The mighty sirrush is a mystery of natural history worth my attention (I happened upon the wonderful author Willy Ley, a most amazing amatuer naturalist and [I kid you not] rocket scientist)
A P2C2E solves all problems [so does rubbing your eye with your elbow]. (currently reading Salman Rushdie's children's book Haroun and the Sea of Stories)
Onward! I am on the heavy lookout for Willy Ley's Salamanders and Other Wonders, and I'm eager to find ST: Soul Key.