Friday, November 11, 2011

To Join The Lost by Seth Steinzor: What She Read Review

I'll say this: I admire Seth Steinzor for pursuing his passion with this book.  His own admiration for Dante's Divine Comedy shines on every page of this unique new fiction, and his desire to bring that master work back to modern life is certainly a laudable one as well.

To be sure, To Join The Lost, Steinzor's modern re-imagining of Dante's Inferno, returned me to that classic with a contemporary spin.  If such an updated literary undertaking is on your agenda this year, then you might find this narrative poem a worthy read.

Chock full of 20th century historical references (imagine Dante's Hell peopled with the likes of Bobby Kennedy, Adolf Hitler, and James Joyce, among others), Steinzor's journey with Dante as his guide funhouse-mirrors the famous poet's own fictional journey.  Plot parallels abound, and I suspect that at least a passing acquaintance with the original would benefit any reader considering this new work as well. 

Happily for me, I recently re-acquainted myself with a light-hearted graphic reimagining of the Divine Comedy, and I did read a more "serious" translation back in college, so I found this contemporary version fairly easy to follow and even grinned from time to time at Steinzor's recastings of Dante's 'crimes and punishments'.

All in all, this happened to be one of those reading experiences when I wanted to find more personal and intellectual satisfaction in a book than I did, but I do not necessarily fault Mr. Steinzor for it.  I do believe that this work could offer much to the right person at the right time, so if you're already a fan of Dante or hoping to find a more accessible entry into his work, you might pick this one up and give it a go. 

Ready to sample a chapter?  Head on over to Seth Steinzor's website.

Want a second opinion?  Hop onto the To Join The Lost blog tour.

Ready to buy?  Here's how.

MFB,
L

p.s. Gratitude to TLC Book Tours and to Mr. Steinzor for offering me a perusal copy.

My action:  Mr. Steinzor's work has convinced me: I simply must return to Dante again this summer.

9 comments:

Seth Steinzor said...

Laurie, thanks for your enthusiasm!

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Ahhh, Dante. As a Chaucer student, I remember being lectured by a Dante student that I had chosen the wrong writer to study. Then again, she was under the tutelage of the late, great Allen Mandelbaum, whose classic translations I enjoy above all others. (Have you read any of his translations? My husband illustrated some of his editions back in the day...)

Seth Steinzor said...

As the Crowe Flies, now I'm going to have to go back to the bookstore and look for illustrated editions of Mandelbaum's translations! I've got his Aeneid, but alas it has no pictures. It is kind of a golden age of Dante translation. I grew up on Ciardi, but now it seems there are a couple of new ones every year. Some time back I fell in love with Robert and Jean Hollander's translation of the Commedia, and that is the one that I have been using as a guide through my own project.

Laurie said...

Well now, Ms. Crowe: I'm off to half.com, Amazon, and the like to snatch up an illustrated copy as well.
Now I owe a double dose of gratitude to Mr. Steinzor for prompting this new tangent in my current reading, Greek as its been for lo these many weeks...

Laurie said...

p.s. And in college it was Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus for me, with a dash of Homer on the side (Fitzgerald a favorite translator at the time, now with Fagles close behind for accessibility),English/Theater major that I was...

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Seth, if you have Mandelbaum's Aeneid, I think you must have my husband's copy of it--there ARE illustrations, but not copious amounts of them. Is it green and from the U of Cal Press?

Laurie, UCal did the Dante and the Aeneid that Mandelbaum translated. I only wish there were an Iliad & Odyssey to go with the bunch. He also did a great rendition of Ovid's Metamorphoses, but my husband didn't illustrate that one.

Now, it's not like I've read lots of translations and then compared them to the original text. I don't read Italian, much less Middle Italian, and I don't read Greek, much less ancient Greek. I just like his prose and his style that ranges from the earthy to the eloquent.

Mandelbaum has also been on my mind lately because I just learned this week that he died last month. It was a blow that hit my husband rather hard, bless him. I never took his class, but I was at Wake Forest when he was teaching there. According to my DH, he was the most brilliant man he'd ever met.

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Oops, forget what I just said. Clearly Virgil and Ovid were writing in Latin, not Greek. But despite one year's worth of Latin in high school, I still don't read it.

Laurie said...

And the coincidences abound: My Greek professor/mentor died this summer as well, and it hit me quite hard. He too was a world-renowned scholar-translator.
Rugged days, those death of the mentor days. I suspect that I know something of your husband's sadness.

heathertlc said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one for the tour!

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