For me, interdependence also connotes the impact artworks have on our lives and how our responses to them, in turn, effect how others perceive them (i.e. reading a book after reading a review). Earlier this summer I was very aware of this phenomenon at a release party for Joseph Luzzi‘s latest memoir, In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love. Here he interweaves his ever-deepening understanding of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy, with his grieving over the tragic car accident death of his first wife in 2007, which also became the premature birthday of his first child. At this event, Luzzi’s second wife, the very accomplished violinist Helena Baillie, played selected excerpts of pieces by the Italian composer Vivaldi that were both poignant and optimistic, and these two creations entwined together were more emotionally resonant than either could have been independently. Given all this cross-pollination, we thought In a Dark Wood would be a perfect fit for this month’s Ideablog theme, interdependence. As always, we welcome your own responses to these posts.
~Victoria C. Rowan, Ideasmyth Creatrix-in-Chief
My time in the Underworld was ending. It hadn’t been a descent into hell, with burning sands and talk of lost redemption; it had been more like a walk through a suburban Detroit cemetery under a steady cold drizzle. Kyle drove away, and I sat on the court alone. There was nobody to share the victory with me, as was appropriate, because my time in the electric air of grief was the most intensely lonely, the most solitary I had ever known. All I could take care of that year was my body—not Isabel’s. I may have looked healthy and played to win on the court, but I was also playing to distract myself from a situation I found unbearable. I had no business being in Westerly, not with the resources I had to raise Isabel on my own, and not with the choices I needed to make to ensure Isabel had the mall-free, junk-food-free upbringing that I would have preferred for her. But I was pining for my wife. I would never have told anyone this, but I had not gotten over losing her body, the warmth of her touch, my desire to fuse with her. Her spirit was not enough—Dante’s Beatrice could not help me with this one. I was not ready for a love of Christian purity, which is why Guido’s poetry, with its talk of beautiful women making the air tremble, made more sense to me than Dante’s gorgeously sublimated verse about a perfect, pure Beatrice whom he had never touched. I was tired of worshiping Katherine’s spirit. I wanted to touch a real body.
It was a glorious late September day the afternoon I defeated Kyle, and the light cast thick black shadows on the clay as it was descending into dusk. I could feel myself entering a new phase of grief, the time of mourning. It would be less terrifying than the previous months, but perhaps more difficult. I had felt largely anaesthetized in the year since Katherine died, concerned only with my own survival. Now I would have to join the living. Summer was ending. It was time to pack up my rackets and leave the soft clay.
Time to go where the air was no longer electric.
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of Luzzi the memoirist, we leave you with Luzzi the Italian studies professor:
See more of Luzzi’s Featured Creative posts on our Ideablog
~~~Joseph Luzzi holds a doctorate from Yale and teaches at Bard. He is the author of My Two Italies, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and Romantic Europe and the Ghost of Italy, which won the Scaglione Prize for Italian Studies from the Modern Language Association. His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bookforum, and the Times Literary Supplement.