So, after mentioning just the other day (was that yesterday?) that Dante’s Divine Comedy is one of my most-treasured books (which it is; I loved it so much that it wound up forming the basic architectual structure to my still-and-probably-always unpublished novel, and the poet himself was a character in the thing), I found something in this week’s SF Weekly about a couple of guys who have done a contemporary rewrite of the great epic poem. (The book-info link is here.) They’ve rewritten the thing entirely, with lines like “By then we had hiked further around the/mountain than I thought, but as you can tell,/I was kinda zoning out on all the art and stuff.” and “… I had that helpless feeling like when/ you’ve missed an exit on the freeway and every mile/passed seems wasted until you get turned around.” Inferno is set (naturally) in L.A., Purgatorio in San Francisco and–well, this I don’t understand at all, what can I say–Paradiso in New York. And the hero is wearing a hoodie with “Allegheri” on the back of his skateboard.
From what I’ve seen, the rewrite is cute and kind of fun. But, not surprisingly, it seems to lack the elegance, the mastery, the depth and profundity that is is dizzyingly present in the original. Could not hold a candle. But nonetheless, I’m amused, and may check them out anyway, for one of those days when I could use a little Neoplatonic hipster entertainment. When I want poetry so heady it makes me cry, I think I’ll still use the original, though, thanks.