Bumbastories Literary Supplement, Libraries of the World, and Lost in Translation Book Reviews

A day at the library. L.A. Central

Hail Hail to the Los Angeles Public Library System, and indeed to all public libraries. Here’s to the Central Library downtown. A beautiful building, rebuilt and renovated in 1980’s to replace the old central library that suffered some fire damage.

As I took these photos, I was was reminded of G.A. Miller and his tongue-in-cheek series titled Libraries of the World. Miller now has a number of blogs at this point in time. https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/17732623.

I am a fan of libraries, too. I’ve visited libraries most of my life, and I’m grateful that at least a small piece of the taxes I pay goes into public libraries. I was at the the Los Angeles Central Library downtown last week. It’s quite a nice piece of architecture for a public building. And what a collection! Hurray for the LAPL, the Los Angeles Public Library system, and especially for all the librarians and workers who do such a fine job to maintain and develop this wonderful resource. IMG_1176


The richness of the collection is the library’s appeal.

OK, get ready for some



On my summer reading list (confession: I really don’t have a summer reading list. I’m just saying I do for argument’s sake). Anyhow, at the top of my list are the classics. There’s nothing like ’em. Currently, I’m having another go at Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s an astounding reading experience, and I would recommend it to one and all.

I’ve tried a couple of translations. Most the translations are bi-lingual – that is, they show the original Italian alongside. It’s fun to try to figure out the Italian sometimes. The power of Dante’s poetry is inescapable, especially in the Italian. Most the translations include explanatory notes – which, I think, are a necessity for the modern reader. And most copies include introductory notes, which are also useful, although I myself seldom read them. I like to get straight to business.

There are dozens upon dozens of English translations of Dante’s Divine Comedy!  And each is quite different. You have to pick and choose which translation you like. I’ve looked at four so far.

I’d recommend them all. Certainly, I’d recommend the verse translations over the prose. There’s an extensive literature that compares and analyzes the various translations in great depth. You can get “lost in translation”.

I like the Allen Mandelbaum translation. The Esolen translation is excellent too, and even more lyrical. It’s quite the art, this translation business.



Naturally, at a great library like this you get to browze. However, grazing and foraging are strictly prohibitted.




As for the scope of Dante’s Inferno, we’re talking about a description of hell. And given Dante’s three ring, seven tiered architectural design plan, that’s a lot to cover!

To our delight, Dante never ceases to amaze us with his rich and passionate descriptions of the hellish landscapes, as well as hell’s long-suffering inhabitants: figures from history, the Bible, from Greco-Roman mythology, as well as from Dante’s own Florentine world. Aided by a brilliant literary device, the poet Virgil, Dante takes us by the hand – and leads us down into the multi-layered depths of an underworld where justice, merciless and unforgiving, is systematically applied. Yikes. The precise origin of this fully-developed conception of the descending circles of sin is unclear to me. But it’s quite a conception. We are all somewhat familiar with this mythology, but still, there’s a bit of a cultural leap to the mentality of Dante’s 13th century Christian world. It’s interesting, as translator Anthony Esolen points out, that most all of these “deadly sins” of the Middle Ages are condoned practices today.

Things change

OK, here’s a song to finish up this post. It’s one of my own. A blues called the Lowdown Blues


20 thoughts on “Bumbastories Literary Supplement, Libraries of the World, and Lost in Translation Book Reviews

  1. The inferno….
    I had an old hardcover copy of Dante’s Inferno. It was borrowed, but never returned.
    It was returned, but never borrowed.

  2. Libraries are a great place, although they seem to be taken over by computers more and more. I love The Divine Comedy, it’s not only epic but I love that Dante also is mean to his enemies in petty ways. Cracking book although I found I had to read up on the local scene at the time to have a real idea what was going on. It is a monumental epic though. Inferno is my favourite part by far.

    1. I’m halfway through. Yes, it’s a lot or work to keep up with his Tuscan enemies list, its not a quick read, but he is so majestic in his poetry and concepts. I mean, talk about an idea. And then his poetry is up to the task. And Yikes, there are two more volumes!

  3. What a lovely building. I lived in LA 1979/80 but I don’t remember it back then.
    Dante has a lot to answer for – scaring the shit out of people. Imagination is a scary thing.
    Lowdown Blues is very appropriate.

    1. When I moved here in ‘87, the library was in temporary quarters on Broadway. The old site was being renovated. I heard that there had been a bad fire that had destroyed a lot of books.

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