Arts & Humanties Reviews, May 1, 2012

Dante Alighieri & Henrik Drescher (illus.). Inferno. Graywolf. Aug. 2012. c.288p. tr. from Italian by Mary Jo Bang. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781555976194. pap. $20. LIT

National Book Critics Circle Award-winning poet Bang (Elegy) offers an original and idiosyncratic version of the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Working from various English translations and the original, Bang seeks to bring out Dante’s contemporary relevance by a frequent use of current idiom, borrowing from or transferring Dante’s imagery to modern circumstances. Where Dante often quoted poet-songwriters of his day, Bang uses relevant passages from John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles. In a process of reverse reference, where many modern poets, such as T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath, quoted or paraphrased Dante, Bang puts these paraphrases back into the original. Her verse is vigorous, her imagery enjoyable and astute. Still, while her notes explain modern references, her knowledge of contemporary Dante scholarship is limited. The book is richly illustrated by Drescher, whose children’s books include Love the Beastie and The Fool and the Flying Ship. VERDICT For readers already familiar with Dante, this is a rich, playful, and insightful poetic reading, true to the spirit if not the word. Those seeking a conventionally accurate translation should instead go to Mark Musa, Robert Pinsky, or Robert Hollander.-T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah, GA

starred review starOrwell, George. Diaries. Liveright: Norton. Aug. 2012. c.608p. ed. by Peter Davison. illus. index. ISBN 9780871404107. $39.95. LIT

Orwell’s extensive diaries, published in Britain in 2009, are finally available in print form in the United States (daily postings from the diaries have been appearing online at This volume contains 11 diaries, beginning in August 1931 and ending in December 1948, 11 months before Orwell’s death. Two missing diaries, from the Spanish civil war, are thought to be housed in the former KGB archives in Moscow. The diaries reveal intimate details of Orwell’s life-the death of his first wife, raising his son, his financial struggles, and his travels. Many entries served as primary material for later works, e.g., a 1936 diary used to write The Road to Wigan Pier. While there are many mundane entries, e.g., on chores and the weather, there are also lengthy ruminations about political and world events, as in the “Diary of Events Leading Up to the War” (titles probably by the editor) and his detailed and compelling notes during World War II. Davison, who has edited Orwell’s complete works, provides helpful explanations and many notes. Christopher Hitchens’s introductory essay is one of his last literary efforts. VERDICT The diaries will appeal to all-literary scholars, historians, and students of 20th-century literature-seeking the inner life of this profoundly influential writer. Strongly recommended.-Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA

starred review starKluger, Jerzy with Gianfranco Di Simone. The Pope and I: How the Lifelong Friendship Between a Polish Jew and John Paul II Advanced Jewish-Christian Relations. Orbis. May 2012. c.240p. tr. from Italian by Matthew Sherry. photogs. index. ISBN 9781570759703. $26. REL

Kluger offers up an engaging autobiographical account of his friendship with Karol Wojtyla, who grew up to become Pope John Paul II. Kluger begins in the mid-1920s in Wadowice, Poland, when the two were schoolchildren, setting the backdrop for how Jews and Catholics interacted in Poland and how hatred, fear, and misconceptions about Jews were widespread throughout Europe in the prewar period. Kluger details how he and his father, separated from their family, served in the military during World War II while many loved ones were forced to live in ghettos and were then killed in German camps. He goes on to discuss how Wojtyla and he were reunited many years later in Rome when Kluger worked there as an engineer and Wojtyla was the archbishop of Kraków participating in Vatican II. Kluger, with di Simone, seamlessly weaves together personal recollections and the concurrent history of Jewish-Christian relations. He demonstrates how both men were affected by their friendship over the years and closes with the end of their long relationship when John Paul II, affectionately known as Lolek, died in 2005.
VERDICT This stirring tale is a must-read for those interested in 20th-century history, religious history, or autobiography.-Crystal Goldman, San Jose St. Univ. Lib., CA

The following titles are reviewed in the May 1 print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.


Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition. Metropolitan Museum of Art, dist. by Yale Univ. 2012. 352p. ed. by Helen C. Evans with Brandie Ratliff. photogs. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300179507. $65. FINE ARTS

Eliasoph, Philip. Colleen Browning: The Enchantment of Realism. Hudson Hills, dist. by National Bk. Network. 2012. 240p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781555953669. $60. FINE ARTS

Rathbone, Eliza & Elizabeth Steele. Degas’s Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint. Phillips Collection, dist. by Yale Univ. 2012. 144p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780300176322. $45. FINE ARTS


Becker, Daniel Levin. Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature. Harvard Univ. 2012. c.352p. index. ISBN 9780674065772. $27.95. LIT

The Legacy of David Foster Wallace. Univ. of Iowa. (New American Canon.) May 2012. c.296p. ed. by Samuel Cohen & Lee Konstantinou. index. ISBN 9781609380823. pap. $19.95. LIT

Rogers, Charlotte. Jungle Fever: Exploring Madness and Medicine in Twentieth-Century Tropical Narratives. Vanderbilt Univ. Jun. 2012. c.248p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780826518316. $55. LIT

Performing Arts

Cohen, Andy. Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture. Holt. May 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780805095838. $25. TV

Davis, J.D. Unconquered: The Saga of Cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley. Brown Bks. May 2012. c.488p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781612540412. $24.95. MUSIC

Franko, Mark.Martha Graham in Love and War: The Life in the Work. Oxford Univ. Jun. 2012. c.240p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199777662. $29.95. DANCE

Pollack, Howard. Marc Blitzstein: His Life, His Work, His World. Oxford Univ. June 2012. c.583p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199791590. $39.95. MUSIC

Vacca, Richard. The Boston Jazz Chronicles: Faces, Places, and Nightlife, 1937-1962. Troy Street, dist. by Ingram. Jun. 2012. c.344p. photogs. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780983991007. pap. $19.95. MUSIC

Winstead, Lizz. Lizz Free or Die: Essays. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). May 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781594487026. $25.95. TV


Peikoff, Leonard. Understanding Objectivism: A Guide to Learning Ayn Rand’s Philosophy. NAL: Penguin Group (USA). 2012. c.400p. ed. by Michael S. Berliner. ISBN 9780451236296. pap. $18. PHIL

Romano, Carlin. America the Philosophical. Knopf. May 2012. c.672p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780679434702. $35. PHIL


Carruth, Hayden. Last Poems. Copper Canyon. May 2012. c.199p. ISBN 9781556593819. pap. $16. POETRY

Hejinian, Lyn. The Book of a Thousand Eyes. Omnidawn, dist. by IPG. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781890650575. pap. $24.95. POETRY

Phillips, Rowan Ricardo. The Ground: Poems. Farrar. May 2012. c.96p. ISBN 9780374167080. $23. poetry


Burt, Robert A. In the Whirlwind: God and Humanity in Conflict. Harvard Univ. 2012. c.400p. index. ISBN 9780674065666. $29.95. REL