Catholic World Report
facebook twitter RSS
The CWR Blog

I had thought I’d use Dan Brown’s new book Inferno (which I reviewed here) for, er, personal hygiene, but it turns out that Cottonelle works better. So I’ll have to be satisfied with this. I have just opened the book at random, to Chapter 65 (page 285), and read this:

The ground has shifted, he realized. The entire landscape was suddenly upside down, and he needed a moment to get his bearings.

Yup, every time the landscape goes upside down on me, I see those funny Chinese guys with their beanies, saying, “Honorable professor on wrong side of world!” And half of the bearings fall out of my pockets. Drat those landscapes, always doing their somersaults!

But why open the book at random, when you can just begin at the beginning? So, here we go, page one:

I pass behind the palazzo with its crenellated tower and one-handed clock…snaking through the early-morning vendors in Piazza di San Firenze with their hoarse voices smelling of lampredotto and roasted olives.

Don’t you hate having to snake through vendors? It’s all the worse when their voices are stinky. That’s not because they’ve eaten lampredotto (cow stomach) and roasted olives. Their voices are stinky because they are SELLING cow stomach and roasted olives. Doesn’t make any sense, does it? I imagine somebody in a doctor’s office:

“Doctor, I’m worried. My voice smells.”

“Hmm, let’s see,” says the doctor, donning his stethoscope and holding the end out to catch the air. “Sing something or other. How about ‘Largo al factotum nella citta,’ from Rossini’s Barber of Seville.”

 ”All right -- but you better stand back. LARgo al factotum nella citta LARGO! La la la, la la la, la la la, LA!”

“Ugh, you’re right. Your voice positively reeks! I’ll tell you something else, too. I’m afraid your breath is off key.”

From page 2 (heck, why not go from page to page?):

As I climb, the visions come hard…the lustful bodies writhing in fiery rain, the gluttonous souls floating in excrement, the treacherous villains frozen in Satan’s icy grasp.

No, he’s not half asleep in bed in the morning…those visions coming hard are coming hard to him while he’s climbing up the Palazzo Vecchio.  And what does he see?  Apparently scenes from Pseudo-Dante, because in the real Dante the lustful do not writhe in fiery rain, the gluttons aren’t floating in excrement (how do you “float” in excrement, anyhow?  Is it liquid? You drank too much prune juice?), and the treacherous villains (as opposed to loyal villains, faithful villains, upright villains) are encased in ice, but except for Judas, Brutus, and Cassius, they aren’t in Satan’s grasp, not even “frozen” in Satan’s really cold subzero chilling icy grasp.

Here’s another, opening the book at random:

“Treachery is one of the Seven Deadly Sins -- the worst of them, actually -- punished in the ninth and final ring of hell. Treachery, as defined by Dante, was the act of betraying a loved one.”

Thanks for clearing that up, Danny.  There’s trouble, though.  Treachery is NOT one of the Seven Deadly Sins.  There’s another trouble.   Dante does NOT define it as betraying a loved one.  (Dante distinguishes among four forms of treachery: betraying kin, betraying your party or country, betraying a host or a guest, and betraying a benefactor. Doesn’t matter whether you actually love them or hate them.) Danny, there is an activity called reading, which, when executed with a modest degree of attention, sometimes results in a state of affairs called “learning something.”
 
About the Author
Anthony Esolen 

Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College. His most recent book is Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Press). He also translated Dante's Divine Comedy for Modern Library Classics.
 
Write a comment

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative and inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.

View all Comments

Catholic World Report