Been re-reading Dante, this time in Allen Mandelbaum’s translation, which seems sturdy & idiomatic enough. (Alas, the Everyman single-volume Comedy I just bought has no Italian text, but who can afford those Bollingen volumes, anyway?) I don’t know Dante anywhere near as well as I know Milton & Homer (not even to speak of Pound & Zukofsky), but I’m always surprised by how familiar the famous lines & set pieces of the Inferno are. An astonishingly good essay by William Arrowsmith, “Ruskin’s Fireflies” (in the John Dixon Hunt/Faith Holland collection, The Ruskin Polygon) reminds me of how absolutely saturated Ruskin was in Dante – probably as saturated as any major English-language writer except Eliot.
Why, alas, did I waste an hour of my life reading Philip Roth’s The Breast? What a nasty, shallow, prurient little book. The difference between Joyce & Roth: Joyce would have imagined the situation of The Breast, bunged it into a hilariously funny page-&-a-half of the “Circe” chapter, & then moved on; Roth wrote a novella (& then 2 prequels). Is P. Roth any relation to Samuel R., the man who first pirated Ulysses in the US (& who ran an English for Immigrants outfit that employed LZ for a while)?
Red Rover, Susan Stewart (U of Chicago P, 2008)
More spare than the poems of Columbarium and The Forest, less of the lush lyricism of those volumes. The contemporary seems to nag the poet, a humming distraction or a moral quandary continually pulling her away from a contemplation of first things – either the immediate data of the natural world, or the spiritual, martial, & erotic matter of the middle ages & classical antiquity.