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In the Hand of Dante: A Novel Hardcover – September 4, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Deftly blending the sacred and the profane, Tosches boldly casts himself as the protagonist in his latest novel, an outrageously ambitious book in which he procures a purloined version of the original manuscript of The Divine Comedy while tracing Dante's journey as Dante struggled to complete his penultimate work. The initial chapters find Tosches looking back and questioning the results of his fascinating life and career, with a brief but devastating aside about the decline of publishing. But Tosches suddenly emerges from his morbid nostalgia when a former character named Louie (a gangster from Tosches's Cut Numbers) gets his hands on a stolen copy of Dante's manuscript and asks Tosches to authenticate it. That sends the author on a whirlwind tour to Arizona, Chicago, Paris and then London as he tries to verify the work and then determine its worth on the open market. The subplot involving Dante's journey is flat and stale by comparison, despite some impeccable scholarship by Tosches as he chronicles the great poet's efforts and setbacks. Tosches's sense of the shock value of his story line doesn't waver, and there's never a dull moment as he opines about modern culture, the Mob, the Oprah Book Club, Zen editing and the joy of being edited, September 11, the artistic process and anything else that happens to hop into his head for a few pages. The ending is a bit of a letdown, but fans of the one-man literary show that is Nick Tosches will doubtless love this book. Overall, it remains incomplete as a novel because of Tosches's inability to bring Dante to life as a character, although the author's admiration for him as a creative force results in a number of compelling passages.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Dante's original manuscript for The Divine Comedy is the catalyst for Tosches's schizophrenic yet at times brilliant novel, synthesizing history and biography with contemporary murder and mayhem to create an exotic meal of a book, albeit one for strong stomachs. The book alternates between two different worlds: 14th-century Italy, where Dante Alighieri searches for the perfect inspiration to complete his masterwork, and 21st-century New York, where murderous thugs seek to profit from the recently unearthed manuscript, thought to be lost to the ages. Enter Tosches, a student of Dante's work and a go-between for the mob; his quest to authenticate the book takes a turn that his conspirators can't predict, and he has plans of his own for the tome. What makes the novel special is Tosches himself, who examines his own life, weary philosophy, and creative inspiration in his usual in-your-face style. In one fascinating aside, the author rants about monopolistic publishing houses, effectively biting the hand that feeds him. As with any Tosches book, a reader's willingness to embrace the dark side and all that it entails is essential. However, behind the grunge lies a fascinating study of the power of writing and the relative value applied to it. The fact that the cynical Tosches doesn't provide easy answers only adds more provocation. Highly recommended.
--Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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The copy I received was perfect except for the magnetic anti-theft device that's permanently glued to the third page. Wish that hadn't happened.
On the one hand, you've got the author inserting himself into the story as the protagonist. Due to his association with some shady, underground, fairly despicable people, he ultimately gets his hands on a long-lost original copy of Dante's The Divine Comedy. This is where the action of the book can be found, replete with lots of adults-only language, a few doses of brutality, and the blood of a string of murder victims. Alongside this story, however, is Tosches' take on Dante's own journey - seeking to tap into something deep and eternal, I guess. As I said, I got very little at all out of this section of the book. It moves along at a glacial pace, sells out to pretentiousness early on, and made the simple turning of each page something of an internal struggle. It doesn't help that Tosches apparently sought to use every word in the dictionary at least once, resulting in literary speed bump after speed bump. I'm an intelligent, well-educated fellow, and I was constantly running up against words I could not define (and had I chosen to seek out the definition of each one, I would surely still be trying to finish this novel all these weeks later). Using "big words" is no sin, of course, especially if the author actually knows what those words mean, but in Tosches' case I got the strong impression that he was just trying to show the reader how darn smart he thinks he is. That doesn't make for a good impression among many readers, and it puts to ruin Tosches' otherwise impressive writing style.
Despite what I found to be a remarkably promising story idea, In the Hand of Dante just didn't do anything for me. The only memorable passage in the whole book is the one many other reviewers have mentioned: Tosches' no-holds-barred attack on the publishing industry. That made for pretty gripping reading, but everything else left me quite nonplussed. I can't for the life of me figure out how this became a national bestseller, as I doubt many casual readers will make it past the first 50 pages. Only the most serious and dedicated of readers will want to tackle this novel.
Most recent customer reviews
First off--if you are not a scholar of Dante and do not read Latin, don't bother.Read more
My recent encounter with In the Hand of Dante quickly soured as I forged...Read more