Tarnmoor’s Inferno

Dante’s Inferno as Visualized by Gustave Doré

Of course, Dante Alighieri was the first poet to give us the Grand Tour of Hell, but I am also influenced by a comic strip from my earlier years called “Hatlo’s Inferno,” by Jimmy Hatlo (1897-1963). In the same vein as Mr. Hatlo, I would like to mention a number of my pet peeves that deserve eternal punishment in the flames of Heck:

  • The guy who takes up a valuable parking space for what seems hours while he is finger f—ing his smart phone.
  • The freeway driver who has been warned by huge signs for miles to change lanes, and who does it at the last possible second with millimeters to spare.
  • The supermarket shopper who treats her shopping cart as an aisle blocker while she memorizes all the varieties of Campbell Soups.
  • The airport public address system which announces gate changes in demotic Urdu while passengers vainly attempt to unscramble what is being said.
  • The cyclists and e-scooter riders who insist on sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians.
  • The weather forecaster who’s always talking about a chance of rain, even if the probability is 0.0001%.
  • The guy who mumbles something about “freedom” while objecting to your wearing a face mask (naturally, they’ve never received their Covid-19 vaccinations).
  • The neighborhood kids who gleefully and maliciously play in your yard.

Hatlo’s Inferno: Hell for Funsies

Just let me catch my breath, and I’ll find a few dozen more things to complain about. At my age, I’m entitled.

Serendipity: Dante’s Inferno Circa 2015

Gustave Doré Engraving from Dante’s Inferno

The following paragraph comes from John Banville’s excellent novel The Blue Guitar (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015). It expresses perfectly the vision of Dante translated into the godless world of the 21st Century.

When I consider the possibility—or perhaps I should say the prospect—of eternal damnation, I envisage my suffering soul not plunged in a burning lake or sunk to the oxters in a limitless plain of permafrost. No, my inferno will be a blamelessly commonplace affair, fitted out with the commonplace accoutrements of life: streets, houses, people going about their usual doings, birds swooping, dogs barking, mice gnawing the wainscot. Despite the quotidian look of everything, however, there is a great mystery here, one that only I am aware of, and that involves me alone. For although my presence goes unremarked, and I seem to be known to all who encounter me, I know no one, recognize nothing, have no knowledge of nwhere I am or how I came to be here. It’s not that I have lost my memory, or that I am undergoing some trauma of displacement and alienation. I’m as ordinary as everyone and everything else, and it’s precisely for this reason that it’s incumbent on me to maintain a blandly untroubled aspect and seem to fit smoothly in. But I do not fit in, not at all. I’m a stranger in this place where I’m trapped, always will be a stranger, although perfectly familiar to everyone, everyone, that is, except myself. And this is how it is to be for eternity: a living, if I can call it living, hell.