Dante’s Inferno was written in the 14th century.
“Since then,” as the authors of Go To Hells kindly remind us, “there have been no new updates.” To our understanding of the geography of hell, that is.
When you put it like that, this book seems incredibly necessary.
Internet Trolls, ATM Lurkers, Reply All-ers, Cable Company Executives—none of these people existed in Dante’s day. Where in hell are we supposed to put them? Kali V. Roy and Jesse Riggle made it their mission to find out. In light verse accompanied by grimly comical illustrations, the creators of Go To Hells expand the layout of the fiery pit, and even tidy the place up a bit.
Roommates who eat all your soup? They’ll spend eternity eating Irish Spring soap. People who recount their boring dreams? They’ll have to listen to Ben Stein read Ayn Rand’s books aloud—forever. “Baby Puppeteers” whose idea of humor is making a baby wave her arms? They’ll have Satan’s hand up their ass as his own private marionette.
Roy and Riggle take a straightforward approach to eternal suffering: the punishment always fits the crime. In that sense, Go To Hells feels more karmic than Christian. What goes around, comes around, once you’re six feet underground.
As Frank Kermode (the British literary critic whose The Sense of an Ending I’m obsessed with) might say, imagining the suffering that our petty enemies will face in the afterlife is really a way to bring ourselves a small measure of peace here on earth. It’s a lot easier to tolerate Roy and Riggle’s Re-Gifters, Staters of the Obvious, Unnecessarily Firm Hand-Shakers, and Malcom Gladwell (yes, he gets his own circle of hell) if we feel certain they’ll pay for it later.
So think of Go To Hells as a palliative. It won’t make your daily annoyances go away. But it sure as hell makes them easier to bear.
– Brian Hurley is Books Editor at The Rumpus and Founder of Fiction Advocate.