Tag: Beast

Dante Alighieri – The Divine Comedy | Review

Title: The Divine Comedy

Author: Dante Alighieri

Type: Poetry

Page Count/Review Word Count: 752

Rating: 4*/5

 

Dante Alighieri - The Divine Comedy

Dante Alighieri – The Divine Comedy

 

Okay, this is going to be a long one. It’s at times like these that I start to regret my rule of making each review have the same number of words as the book had pages, because The Divine Comedy is a bit of a beast. Nevertheless, the fact that it’s written in verse actually makes it easier to read because there aren’t too many words on the pages. I powered through the whole thing in three or four days, although I should also point out that I skipped Inferno because I’d already read that.

I think a lot of people think of The Divine Comedy as the kind of book that you can only enjoy if you’re an academic. I wouldn’t class myself as one – although I do write books of my own and I got an A in GCSE English Literature when I was sixteen – but I still enjoyed reading my way through it. I saw it as a challenge, and I like a challenge – so the fact that it was actually enjoyable came as a nice surprise.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s basically a three-parter of epic poems that take you on a journey through hell, purgatory and heaven, and while I’m not exactly the religious sort, I still thought that there was plenty there for me. In fact, Dante’s use of symbolism was one of the major draws for me, although I did often struggle to tell what he was talking about when he referred to Greek legends.

 

Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri

 

Of course, this isn’t the best book for everyone. You need to be a certain type of reader to enjoy it, but I for one am glad that I picked it up and gave it a chance. Sure, it taxes the brain a bit as you’re working through it, but it feels more like a mental workout than actual torture and you feel better for it when you reach the end of it.

I even took the time to read all of the notes, because I’m a completionist, and I found the notes to be just as interesting as the rest of the book. They added a huge amount of extra information that kept it all interesting, and it was great to be able to put things into context and to actually understand what Dante was on about. I think that part of that is thanks to the impressive work by C. H. Sisson, the translator of the edition that I read, and the great job he did of translating the work into English. The language still feels a little old, of course, but it’s not so inaccessible that it drives the reader away.

So overall, The Divine Comedy deserves its place as a rightful classic as part of the literary canon, and I think it belongs on all of those lists that talk about the books you should read before you die. After all, this basically covers what happens next – if you believe in that sort of thing. I don’t, but when you start to see religious work as fiction, it allows you to enjoy the elements of the story itself. It adds a whole new dimension.

 

Dante Alighieri Quote

Dante Alighieri Quote

 

I would recommend this book, but only to certain people. I don’t think my mum would enjoy it, for example, but I think my friend Neil would. You have to be a literature lover to get the most of it, but don’t be put off because it’s required reading or anything like that – it’s a genuinely interesting read, if only to put the wider literary canon into perspective. Better still, Dante’s language is beautiful (unless it’s just the translator), and his writing is great to read for its own sake. Although you will enjoy it more if you understand what’s actually happening.

Just don’t be put off by the length of it or by any reputation that proceeds it. And if you’re worried that you might not enjoy it, start with a copy of The Inferno and then see how you get on with that. If you liked it, like I did, then you can pick up The Divine Comedy and whizz through it by only reading the two thirds of it that you haven’t already read. Result.

Basically, only you can decide whether you’re willing to make the commitment. But for my part, I don’t regret it.

 

Dante Alighieri Quote

Dante Alighieri Quote

 

Click here to buy The Divine Comedy.

 


Woody Guthrie – Bound for Glory | Review

Title: Bound for Glory

Author: Woody Guthrie

Type: Non-Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 320

Rating: 4*/5

 

Woody Guthrie - Bound for Glory

Woody Guthrie – Bound for Glory

 

I have mixed feelings about this book, but I think that’s largely because it’s a bit of a beast if you’re not properly psyched up for it. It takes time and concentration to get through it and feels like too much of a chore to be a 5/5, but it’s still culturally significant. In fact, it’s even a lot of fun from time to time, and it’s impressive how Guthrie is able to capture the vernacular – and the lifestyle – at the time.

For a book that’s about a musician, there isn’t a huge amount of information here about Guthrie’s early musical career, but that’s okay. We still get to see him travelling around with his guitar and playing songs to the folks he met along the way. In many ways, that’s the point – this isn’t a ‘coming-of-age’ kind of story but rather the non-fiction equivalent of the fabled great American novel.

It’s also interesting to some of the themes that followed Guthrie throughout his life, of which fire is probably the most prominent. In fact, he lost several houses as a kid and spent a lot of time on the move, which is probably why he grew up to live a life on the rails. Say what you want about Guthrie, the man was a real character – and I can see why Bob Dylan used to re-read this book over and over again.

Ultimately, then, this book isn’t for everyone – but if you’re a big fan of either Guthrie or the folk music that he influenced, you’ll definitely enjoy this. But you’ll also enjoy it if you’re interested in America during the 1930s1950s. Guthrie’s writing is as evocative as any novelist’s, which means you can almost taste the dust and smell the sweat of the men in the taverns.

 

Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie

 

Click here to buy Bound for Glory.

 


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