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The Doorway Into Dante

A school administrator says 'How Dante Can Save Your Life' is what his teachers need

I just got this via e-mail from a friend who is superintendent of a Catholic school system. Because I know him and value his opinion, I had a galley copy of How Dante Can Save Your Life sent to him. I publish this with his permission:

Just wanted to touch base to say how completely engrossed I am in the book.

I think you and the editors do a really great job of straddling the line between memoir and scholarly treatise. Neither can work in and of itself. You story offers a way into the text, but it’s clear that your specific story is not the ONLY way into it. Your book, I think, offers a great way for people to see that it’s worth taking that journey with you, with Dante, with Virgil and, ultimately, with themselves.


Now, I would add that I see this book as completely serendipitous. I have been talking with my teachers about introducing more of a classical model of education into our schools. It’s a huge step, and most of my teachers are not classically trained.

Just yesterday—yesterday!—a long-time English teacher told me she is going to teach the Inferno next year. She’s terrified. She hasn’t ever read it herself. But she’s really smart. So while she contemplates reading Dante, I am going to get her a copy of “How Dante” for inspiration!

I can’t tell you how encouraged I am by that letter. It tells me that How Dante has the power to do exactly what I hoped it would do: draw ordinary people — especially teachers and students — into this powerful, life-changing poem. I wrote it not only for people who know the Commedia, but also for people have no prior experience with it at all, but who are curious and would like to know more.

This is the third comment like this I’ve gotten from an educator who has read the advance copy. The previous two are going to be on the back of the hardcover when it comes out April 16:

“We will use How Dante Can Save Your Life in our classrooms because it makes the Divine Comedy live in a person –and students need to experience this. Now everyone can find in Dreher’s book the wit, wisdom, and application of the great poem to your life.” — John Mark Reynolds, provost of Houston Baptist University and author of When Athens Met Jerusalem

(John Mark founded the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, by the way).

And this:

“By weaving his own pilgrimage into Dante’s, Rod Dreher makes Dante accessible and, more important, compelling. He has assimilated what is most urgent in Dante and by grafting it to his own story he makes the ‘Divine Comedy’ passionately real. This is certainly the book for those who previously have only come across Dante as a name. Equally important, it provides fresh insights to those of us who are already hooked.” — Ronald B. Herzman, State University of New York at Geneseo and co-teacher of The Great Courses lectures on ‘The Divine Comedy’

You can pre-order How Dante here, or go to your local bookstore to do so. If you are an educator or school administrator who thinks this book might be something you would use in the classroom, please drop me a note at rod (at) amconmag.com. I have no authority to provide galley proofs (that is, the uncorrected version) on my own, but I will consult with the publisher to see if it’s feasible. I don’t handle the business end of the book either, but it’s typical for publishers to offer discounts for bulk buyers. If you like the book and think it would be helpful in opening the Divine Comedy up to teachers and students, I’ll be pleased to put you in touch with the right people at ReganArts, my publisher.

Think of the images at the top of this post as doorways into the world of Dante. That’s what I believe they are, and hope they are for many readers.



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