On Treating Dante Properly, January 11

Dear Satan…
January 5, 2011
Among the Volumes, Before the Consummation
January 12, 2011

Now you travelled so far as the nine roundabouts of hell (patterned, of course, after La Place de l’Étoile, that dastardly cunning circle en masse which never ceases to lock me in my quirksome car), which made you wary of water and sticks and fire and things of the sort that hurt. For it was said of Faust, and a few others we don’t remember: They made a gallows of themselves of their own houses.

Which is the human way, and no wonder we should end up with sodomites and centaurs and epicureans who love dear food and not much else. And so, I concur with those who have whispered that you had it all backwards. The Mormons, rather, with their levels of heaven, are far the more palatable than Danteans, who float on the obsession with a corkscrew hell. They, at the very least, engage water more than fire.

Let me be candid, Mr. Algiers or whatsoever they call you: take to heart the prominent words of Winston Churchill—Veni, vidi, vici. By which he means, most certainly, that when you drink wine, you are bound to relax even your more anxious appendages and onward you go to victory. As the Latins have said, and continue to say, “Corpus per Diem!” Which means, I’m sure, all bodies for God. That means you, Dante. And onward you go to victory (by God, and through Him, but not quite literally).

My point comes to this, in the shorter version: Drink as you are able in the metaphor for merriment and let go of your fears. I mean, after all is said and done (and, in your case, written), there should be divine celebration marked by good wine and good fish and good bread and a pork roast. That is the pork and point I am making, and it would be delightful if you could join the rest of us, you cockamamie paragon of paranoia.

And so, I say you are a good man misguided, and should take a drink with the great Milton and his seeing-eye son. The two are lovely when not hauled up in bed, as happens to be often the case. And perhaps you’ll see a mirror of yourself and the hell you’ve fabricated out of pens and loneliness. Drink up of that sobering image and I’ll have your head in the casks before nightfall.

Dream well and silently, but with loud visions of pomp and indulgent sexual things. That’s the least I can ask of you.

Always yours, even in beastly impropriety,

J

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