Archive for May 2010
I’ve been meaning to write about this surprising new edition of Longfellow’s Dante, brought out by Del Rey Books, the science fiction imprint of Random House. And yes, it’s a video game tie-in.
I’m not a player, so I can’t say anything about the game (this is not snobbery on my part, I’m inept — I haven’t tried a game since pinball made me its Charlie Brown) … but the treatment of the text is loving. If that’s any indication, the game must be terrific.
The cover copy is priceless: “The Literary Classic That Inspired the Epic Video Game from Electronic Arts.” And likewise the back: “The timeless classic of a journey through the horrors of hell … The action adventure blockbuster that’s rocking the video-game world.” Included: a 16-page full-color insert, with screen shots of the game and art by William Blake and Gustav Doré. The effect reminds me of Deadliest Warrior: there too a little research heightens the pleasure of make-believe — a geeky dress-up pleasure in that case, pop mythology in this one.
And there’s also an introduction, a good one, by Jonathan Knight, the game’s executive producer, and also — I love this — a note on the text. Unless I’m missing something, no individual is credited, but someone went to Harvard and looked at Longfellow’s papers: the annotations are as Longfellow wanted them, and for the first time. I’ve seen less credible texts on college syllabi. 
I wanted to spend some time with this edition and with the game’s website — and some of the online commentary — before writing this post, but I’ve been busy with end-of-semester stuff. Meanwhile, Frank Frazetta died today, at age 82. It seemed appropriate to mention the book in his memory. I’ve never played video games. But Conan? Bran Mak Morn? Yeah, I’ve spent some time in those worlds, which I associate as much with Frazetta as I do with their creator, Robert E. Howard. I wouldn’t have thought before now to link Howard with Dante, but Howard’s publisher, Del Rey, has done that for me, by way of Frazetta. Take a look at the image below, and then at the new Longfellow cover. Frazetta’s art is clearly an inspiration. If not directly, then through a chain of artists who influenced artists who influenced the artists at Electronic Arts.
Enjoy a long afterlife, Frazetta.
1 [Back to text] Del Rey’s website lists Matthew Pearl and Lino Pertile as authors, and it would make sense if they had a role in the editing — Pearl wrote The Dante Club, a novel in which Longfellow is a character, and Pertile teaches Dante at Harvard — but I can’t confirm that.