"A crazy, wild journey up an Appalachian Trail paved with the stones of a philosophical quest.
Lowery totes plenty of baggage on this walk from Georgia to Maine—Dante as his guide, with a soupcon of Pynchon, a nod to the pre-Socratics, Basho, Robert Frost, Shakespeare, Whitman and others, making the work akin to The River Why and Golf In the Kingdom. But, delightfully, the end product is Lowery’s very own. Dr. Durant Allegheny—could it be his real name? perception is the crux here—has hit the trail into the wild, looking for surcease from a life gone sour, or at least for his soul. He travels with Virgil, a runic, mostly monosyllabic, guilelessly endearing character. Early on they meet Padma, a virtuous pagan (or is it God or the Devil?) who bestows upon them a gift—guides to map the pair’s way forward. These guides prove to be incandescent trials-by-fire, as is negotiating Lowery’s writing—dense, probing, elegiac and as sinuous as the trail it charts, then becoming clear as a view from a summit. There is caterwauling, the swift transformation of emotions, psychotropic episodes, condemnations and deep investigations into decency and humanity, backlit by some of the ugliest company the Devil could throw at you. Though moving steadily northward, Durant spirals through confrontations with the curse of fear, greed (“We’re all petty and selfish and primitive Baptists.”), God (“Maybe it wasn’t over, maybe God was still evolving, maybe God would change. Which made for a really terrifying thought.”), truth, justice, love, pride and choice. Allegheny finds a girl, too; Beatrice, who advises against his “intellectually-fueled avoidance of reality.” Lurking amid the intellectual fuel are lovely descriptions of places—the rhododendrons and trillium of springtime Tennessee; or his maelstrom “of the dead, the Mistress, the Amarita, the cognitive dissonances, the Atlantean inkblots”—and utterly winning, joyful talk about camping equipment; the real Lowery as innocent, enthusiastic hiker abroad on the land.
Deserves to be a cult classic."
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"To pay for our evil is something that seems to be lost on the modern world. American Inferno is Bret Lowery spinning out Dante's literary classic into a modern context as America bathes itself in the seven deadly sins of its life. All seven are addressed with a good dose of humor and as the country faces judgment for its endless sin. American Inferno is an insightful and thought provoking discussion of America and its faults, along with the hope for its future."
"Dr. Durant Allegheny is on a quest. He thought he was trying to clear his mind and escape his past by hiking the Appalachian Trail with his ever-stoic companion Virgil, but it seems others have a higher purpose in mind for him. Allegheny, guided by the mysterious Padma, finds himself confronting the deadly sins of a modern age, from unbridled lust to the self-serving and unconcerned wealthy beneficiaries of the financial meltdown, to Allegheny's own immeasurable pride. As he struggles to come to terms with what his life has become, will he open his eyes and take control of his future?
Some are already saying Bret Lowery's American Inferno is destined to become a cult classic for a new generation, and they might not be too far off. Lowery's wordy writing style is a little difficult to get into at first, but once you wrap your mind around his extensive love of adjectives, alliteration, and cultural and classical references, you'll find yourself flying through the pages. Lowery writes like a man after my own heart; I gave myself a mental high-five every time I picked up on one of the more seemingly-obscure references, and his skilled use of language is a refreshing change from so much of the drivel that passes as modern literature today. The characters are not fully developed and many details about them seem to be absent, but that is part of the novel's charm: readers are left to fill in some of the blanks on their own, creating greater opportunities to identify with the characters on a more personal level. At times you can't be sure if Allegheny is on a drug-induced trip or lost in a state of personal psychosis, but regardless of how you interpret his reality, you can't deny that American Inferno makes for compelling reading."
The lusts of Internet love, the greed and gluttony of the mortgage meltdown, the sloth of those slow to address climate change, the wrath of the techno-warfare state and shock journalism, the envy of Wall Street fat cats and wheeler-dealers, and the immeasurable pride of Americans despite it all.
These are the Seven Deadly Sins, circa America, early 21st Century.
American Inferno is a retelling of Dante's classic 700-year-old tale for the modern age, an age where men doubt: themselves, others, and the gods... and, ultimately, where we and the gods go from here. Join Dr. Durant Allegheny, rational scientific disbeliever, and the mysterious Virgil in a journey up the Appalachian Trail and into an inexplicable world of holy men, demons, and all-too-fallible men capable of both good and evil as he seeks both to find the meaning of it all and confront the Powers that may or may not be in an American Inferno.