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He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Book Reviews

Rubin, Harriet. Dante in Love: The World’s Greatest Poem and How It Changed History. Simon and Shuster.

Library Journal: “Rubin is well versed in Dante scholarship, and she skillfully draws on various translations of the Comedy and an array of other academic works. Yet she could have organized her knowledge better; much of the text seems to flow from one idea to the next without articulate transition. Recommended for academic libraries.” Publishers Weekly: “The infectious blend of accessibility, erudition and practical wisdom that characterized Rubin’s previous The Princessa is abundantly present in her Dante in Love. That Rubin is able to interweave—without oversimplification—such occasionally arcane material into a compelling and fast-paced narrative speaks to an overall sense of great learning lightly worn and of a trust in the reader’s intelligence not always evident in such popularizing accounts.” Kirkus: “Pleasant, informative. An almost ecstatic exegesis of The Divine Comedy, with breezy commentary on all three of its canticles. There are some eye-openers here for general readers and those unfamiliar with the poem. Rubin’s summary of the theory that Dante’s views of Gothic cathedrals in France inspired the architecture of the Comedy, her emphasis on the importance of memory in medieval societies, her unfettered enthusiasm for the poem—these are the real attractions. As, for the most part, is her felicitous prose.” Wilson Quarterly: “Dante’s enduring devotion to Beatrice, Rubin contends, is what induced Dante to write. This weak echo of Shakespeare in Love, in which only Gwyneth Paltrow can inspire the Bard to finish Romeo and Juliet, is hardly as compelling as Rubin’s taut reading of the influence of exile on the Comedy. The real love here is Rubin’s passion for Dante. She follows him relentlessly and imagines what he saw. Combined with her erudition and wit, this love makes Rubin a trustworthy Virgil to guide us through Dante’s exile.” Choice: “Dante scholars will not find any new information here, because Rubin intends this very readable book as an introduction to The Divine Comedy. She provides much background information on the period during which Dante lived and wrote, and she succeeds well in giving a portrait of the age. Essential.”


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