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In books: An interactive take on Dante and more

January 14, 2009 |  5:29 am

Botticelli_hell_0113

A professor at the University of Texas at Austin has created an online readers guide to Dante's "Inferno," "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso." Called Danteworlds, it's an interactive accompaniment to his readers guide from University of Chicago Press. The online Danteworlds maps out Dante's physical progress to Hell and beyond, combining classic images by Botticelli with new (and truly terrifying) illustrations by Suloni Robertson. There are also audio snippets of Dante's work being read in Italian, including the classic "Leave behind all hope, you who enter": Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.

A single sentence can be hell on a writer, but author Gary Lutz argues in favor of paying them close attention. He spoke to Columbia's writing program in September; that lecture now appears in The Believer:

The sentence, with its narrow typographical confines, is a lonely place, the loneliest place for a writer, and the temptation for the writer to get out of one sentence as soon as possible and get going on the next sentence is entirely understandable. In fact, the conditions in just about any sentence soon enough become (shall we admit it?) claustrophobic, inhospitable, even hellish....

Writing is rich to the extent that the drama of the subject matter is supplemented or deepened by the drama of the letters within the words as they inch their way closer to each other or push significantly off.

I've previously mentioned that the New Yorker's Book Bench is reading Roberto Bolaño's "2666" this month; it has opened up the blog's comments so you can chime in while reading along. But as they're already more than 300 pages (and how many thousands of sentences?) into the book, I'm afraid I'm too far behind to join.

In generally unrelated news, Lydia Cacho's reports on child sexual abuse in Mexico have made her the subject of harassment, but that hasn't stopped her from publishing "Con Mi Hij@ No" ("Not With My Child"). La Plaza reports from her Mexico City book party.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: Botticelli's illustration of Hell

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