Tag Archives: Dante’s Divine Comedy

The Secret Life of Books – GUEST POST

Surly Joe Dreams: A Mostly True Narrative of Literature and Nonsense

copperfield-cover-webThe sound that woke me from a semi-deep sleep was a loud dull thud. I sat up, startled and immediately alert. It was the middle of the night, not a time for loud, dull thuds. On the pillow next to me was my copy of David Copperfield, the copy that was supposed to be on my bookcase on the opposite side of my room. I had not touched this book in years, but it was on my pillow next to me.

Before I could say “what the…”, a second book, Dante’s Divine Comedy, shot out of the bookcase, cannonball-like, and slammed into my shoulder, spine-first. It was a paperback so it didn’t hurt too much, but that really wasn’t really the issue. The issue was that the books from my bookcase on the other side of my room were spontaneously launching themselves at me. A third, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, followed in quick succession by Fahrenheit 451 and all three volumes of the Lord of the Rings, ricocheted off my arms and chest. I covered my face, trying to protect myself, yelling over and over “Stop! Stop!”, screaming “What are you doing?” The attack continued. 1984, Crime and Punishment, Jude the Obscure, A Farewell to Arms, Under the Volcano, The Grapes of Wrath. A literary barrage. I yelled one more time, the sound of my voice competing with the thudding of the books.

Then I really woke up, relieved. Shaking my head into awareness, I marvelled at what must have been a book reviewer’s ultimate nightmare. The symbolism was so beautiful and perfect. It was the revenge of the books, their angry response to all the negative criticism that had been heaped on them over the centuries. For once, they were fighting back, attacking their critic in the only way they could attack. Pure violent retribution.

The Nightmare is a 1781 oil painting by Anglo- Swiss artist Henry Fuseli (1741–1825). Since its creation, it has remained Fuseli’s best-known work. With its first exhibition in 1782 at the Royal Academy of London, the image became famous; an engraved version was widely distributed and the painting was parodied in political satire. Due to its fame, Fuseli painted at least three other versions of the painting. – WIKIPEDIA


Then a second interpretation came to mind. Perhaps it wasn’t revenge. Perhaps it was a call from all the books I hadn’t yet reviewed, their blunt statement saying “pick me next, don’t ignore me”. It wasn’t anger, it was jealousy, a wish for inclusion.

I’m on my way to my local cafe now. Hemingway had his favourite cafe and I have mine. I have to read and write. I have a new review to begin. For the sake of my sleep, I’ll try to not be overly critical. I’ll try not to forget anyone.


In his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia,  Circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

Note: Upon reading this post I couldn’t help but be reminded of the wonderful 2011 Academy Award winning short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore. I defy you to watch and not want to immediately drop everything and pick up the next book on your TBR list!