As usual, there are too many books on my reading table. As I continue with Les Trois Mousquetaires,which gets better with every page, I’m also finishing La parabola di Giobbe, a work of Christology (among other things) by David Maria Turoldo, a very holy man heavily inspired by Teilhard de Chardin, in whose own work I find, as Flannery O’Connor did, interesting things, despite his much disputed reputation.
Having recently picked up Henry James’s Selected Literary Criticism at a secondhand bookshop, I’m impressed by the acuity of the novelist’s critical perceptions. Among the essays I’ve read so far, I find the one on Zola especially admirable, while the devastating “Mr. Walt Whitman” (1865) exposes that fraudulent old windbag and poseur for what he was and is a pure delight to read.
I had never read Laurence Binyon’s translation of The Divine Comedy, despite having kept a copy in my library for years beside translations by John Ciardi and John D. Sinclair, and so I’ve begun reading a few cantos every night before bed. Binyon’s rendering is more formal than Ciardi’s and Sinclair’s, and from what I can discern of the original medieval Italian perhaps more faithful in that regard. Be that as it may, Dante himself is more wonderful even than I remembered. So far, the most breathtaking conceit in The Inferno is that of the fate of the lost souls who denied the existence of the Afterlife: to be condemned, before the Last Judgment, to their open coffins and, after it, to be buried in them. The claustrophobic horror of eternal confinement and suffocation is palpable. Can the poetic imagination strike any further than this?
—Chilton Williamson, Jr.