Anthony Valerio's biography of John Dante, Hugh Hefner's second-in-command at *Playboy* and the Great Libertine's best friend for over 40 years, is like no other book I have read. Deft and clever, literate and highly readable. First, there's the subject matter. Decades of insider *Playboy* views, virtually from the landmark magazine's inception. Second, there is the intricate weaving of the "other" Dante's story. John Dante sought to imitate Dante Alighieri, he of the medieval, Italian and "divine" Comedy, who meted out punishments, penances, and paradises, in an epic-length poem made of three parts. What has one to do with the other? That would be the third part of this unique book, part social history, part immigrant story, the part that I will call the cautionary tale. For, and I won't say how, John Dante does not end well. Parading through these pages are some of the best-known names in show business and, its darker side--especially for a magazine self-identified as "men's entertainment"-- pornography: Beatty, Bogdanovich, Caan, Cosby, Curtis, Jagger, Lovelace, Nicholson, Reems, Steinem, and, especially, Silverstein. Readers will be riveted by the portrait of the beloved children's author that emerges in these pages. Not exactly what they may have expected. Silverstein urged John Dante to contact Valerio, whom Silverstein knew and whose work he respected, so that John Dante could write a book--the insider's view of *Playboy*!--that would earn him enough money to get him to Florence, the town that exiled his namesake, the poet Dante Alighieri close to 700 years earlier. The 20th-century (John) Dante gets to Florence all right, but the price is steep, indeed. It's not exactly *Se7en,* but it has its dark, seamy, *nasty* side. Think *Star 80*. The surprising portrait of Silverstein is but one of the gifts that this book offers. Another is the gangsta Chicagoland of the 1950s and early `60s, which teems with memorable gangland characters. Part biography, part immigrant story, *John Dante's Inferno* in some ways mimics the Poet Dante's imagined journey through hell, into purgatory, and, finally, into paradise. Yet the 20th Century was a chaotic one, and sometimes it's difficult to keep separate what is hell and what is heaven. For example, John Dante claims to have had 16,000 women--and, *maybe*, one male--as lovers (he can't be sure: he was too stoned to say, exactly). Heavenly, to be sure, at least as far as John Dante was concerned. Heavenly, but with a (hellish) price to be paid. Valerio writes surely and gives us gripping and very, very literate prose. It seems completely appropriate that the readers of *John Dante's Inferno* be brought into the presence of the Great Libertines of western culture, which include, surely, Casanova and Hugh Hefner.
Read it. And enjoy.
Just released--Print Edition of ANTHONY VALERIO'S SEMMELWEIS
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DANTE IN LOVE, a modern literary interpration of Dante's classic VITA NUOVA, A NEW LIFE
"The mixing of the two voices, the translator and the explicator, works wonderfully. A winner, very good stuff, really."
Giuseppe Mazzotta, Sterling Professor in the Humanities for Italian, Yale University.
"I just kept on reading it right through even though I had read the original many times. Anthony Valerio's version really makes it new.--Rebecca West, William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Service Professor Emerita, University of Chicago.
great RADIO SPOT!
Thought that since I wrote them I might talk a little about my books. Ten in number, thus far, covering my writing life beginning in the late 1970's with the Short Story "The Skyjacker" in The Paris Review and continuing to the recently completed Semmelweis, the Women's Doctor. Feels like just the other day.-- A.V. - 03/2019.
Titles in ascending order:
The Mediterranean Runs Through Brooklyn
Valentino & the Great Italians
BART: a Life of A. Bartlett Giamatti
Anita Garibaldi, a Biography
Conversation with Johnny, a novel
Toni Cade Bambara's One Sicilian Night, a memoir
The Little Sailor, a Romantic Thriller
John Dante's Inferno, a Playboy's Life
IMMIGRANTS according to Anthony Valerio, Volumes 1 & 2
Semmelweis, the Women's Doctor
Proud to say all books are in print. They - digital & print editions - can be found on Amazon.com -- search Anthony Valerio. And each title has its own Facebook page which will be listed in the Works section. - - Anthony
Except from Author's Note, Semmelweis, the Women's Doctor
I have attempted to present his life and work through his eyes, mind and heart. At the same time, experience as deeply as possible the horror of a new mother who contracted childbed fever in the days immediately after giving the gift of life. Her motherhood denied! Sudden farewell to her newborn! Attempting in a flash to see how he or she will turn out! Identifying with her pain, the pity. Unimaginable pain, for the post-partum "twilight sleep" of a combination of morphine and scopolamine, an amnesiac, would not be introduced until 60-odd years later. To comprehend the life of Ignaz Semmelweis, one must also plumb oneself, we children who survived.
...the hope is that today, around the world, at this moment, when one is passing surely one of millions of hand sanitizers and uses it to cleanse the hands, a thought can possibly go out to Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis and a fuller understanding, and appreciation, of his life and work.
About The Women's Doctor: Ignaz Semmelweis—
"In a global #metoo moment, Semmelweis should also have his place as someone who listened to women and, significantly, to their ailing bodies, even as the medical profession dismissed a common affliction killing women as a "woman's illness" and therefore not worthy of a place on the forefront of medicine. There is a photo circling the internet of the actor Patrick Stewart holding a sign with the Amnesty International seal. The caption for this image, presumably in Stewart's own words, is this: "People won't take you seriously unless you're an old white man, and since I'm an old white man I'm going to use that to help the people who need it." The sign Stewart is holding reads: Defend right for girls and women. Semmelweis, like Stewart, believed in embodied response, of putting one's body behind and into one's words. To be sure, Semmelweis was a pioneering physician and scientist whose accomplishments should be studied for their contributions to science. But he was also a feminist, and his work should be understood in that vein, also."--Ellen Nerenberg, Hollis Professor of Romance Languages & Literatures, Dean, Arts and Humanities. Wesleyan University
On a school outing with my 9 and 10-year-old classmates to the local cinema we saw a film about the life and work of Dr. Semmelweis. I knew about him, from school but even more from my parents; at home I read about famous Hungarian heroes, not just kings and warriors, but those ignored in their lifetime, whose work could have benefited all, children, women, and men. Our history, so full of tragedies like his, unrealized potential: failed reformers and inventors, scientists and artists embittered and ignored, driven to early death. –Akös Őstor, professor, author, filmmaker
Looking at and understanding someone like Semmelweis on a deep level and how he combated prejudices and prevailing thoughts and changed the way medicine is practiced is as relevant today as it was in the 1840s.—Prakash Sampath, M.D. Surgeon. President, Rhode Island Neurological Institute