GHOSTLY DOUBLES IN AMERICAN NOVELS
The Divine Comedy is not an American novel.
The Divine Comedy
by Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri’s poetic masterpiece in which in the poet Dante Alighieri, in the middle of his life (age thirty-five), is led by Virgil on a tour of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Along the way he encounters Minos, Florentine poets, ancient Greeks, the Devil, and Beatrice, the woman he loves. The descent into Hell is the most famous and widely-read of the three volumes that make up The Divine Comedy; perhaps because Purgatory reminds us too much of our daily lives, and Paradise is a place we’d rather imagine ourselves.
by Philip Roth
Philip Roth the Jewish writer is plagued by Philip Roth the Anti-Zionist—an imposter who gives lectures in Israel advocating that all Jews return to their eastern European countries of origin. Needless to say, this makes Real, Fictional Roth rather displeased, and he goes to Israel to track down Fake, Fictional Roth to clear his “name” (which has less and less precise meaning as the story progresses). In the process, Real, Fictional Roth poses many insightful questions about identity and Jewishness, among other more bawdy preoccupations.
A Fan’s Notes
by Frederick Exley
Follow the sports fanatical “Ex” protagonist in a dipsomaniacal odyssey based very much on the real-life, self-destructive shenanigans of Ex the author. Includes laugh-out-loud funny excoriations of corporate culture and the girlfriend’s parents. This book will also depress the living hell out of you (in an excellent way).
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—HJ & VV