This month’s book club book is Inferno by Dan Brown. It’s not the “typical” book club type of book, but it’s a good summer read. I’ve read a few other Brown books – The DaVinci Code (of course), Angels and Demons, and The Lost Symbol. I didn’t really care for The Lost Symbol, but the other two were fun and, so far, I am enjoying Inferno.
Inferno takes place in Florence, Italy and revolves around Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, more specifically Inferno. Since I’m not yet finished with it, I’ll save my review (if I do one) for a later time. However, I had some thoughts as I’ve been reading. A few pages into the book, Sandro Botticelli’s painting “Map of Hell” was mentioned. I looked up the painting online as a point of reference while reading. My initial search didn’t bring me to the painting, but rather an art message board thread about the painting. I curiously read through the first few posts, and was taken back a bit about the scathing reviews of Brown’s book. Poor writing and silly story lines were the most common complaints. The posts, however, were not critical essays or particularly well written themselves. Instead, they sounded like pretentious rants, almost shaming anyone who actually dared to read and/or enjoy it. Granted, Brown’s books may not be considered great literature, but I can’t understand the utter disgust some of these posters had for the book and the fact that people read and enjoy them. Still, as a New York Time’s best seller regardless of critics, Brown’s probably laughing all the way to the bank.
While enrolled in a Humanities class during my junior year of high school, we studied Dante’s Divine Comedy. There are very few actual lessons or units of study I remember from my high school days, but this one I do remember. While reading each part of the poem, the teacher had us create our own modern day version of the allegory. After our poem was written, I believe it was then acted out on camera and presented, along with the poem as a final project. I have forgotten most of what WE wrote (other than possibly New Kids on the Block fans playing some role in the depths), but the work that we did made this 14th-Century work more relevant and comprehensible to 20th-Century high school kids.