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Learning to Be Good

Image used under a Creative Commons license courtesy of Yersinia.

As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time at all has probably discerned that one of the intellectual and artistic projects I’m most interested in is understanding conceptions of Hell and the Devil. As a result, I am a total sucker for the ideas behind Heck, an upcoming adaptation of the Circles of Heck books, about a Dantesque Hell for teenagers who die before they’re adults. It’s not as if this kind of alternate-afterlife storytelling hasn’t been done before, notably in Dar Williams “Alleluia,” about the perils of being consigned to heaven as an alternakid:

But one of the things I dig about this is, while I enjoy the gruesome visions of the Inferno we get in art like Neil Gaiman’s Season of Mists entry in the Sandman series, and the lonely magesterium of Milton’s Paradise Lost, I also really like the idea of Hell as a place that’s boring, and eccentric, and frustrating. I don’t necessarily mean so much in the pretentious “Hell is…other people” sense from No Exit, but more in a G. David Schine In Hell sense, a vision of the afterlife Tony Kushner created where everyone from Nixon to J. Edgar Hoover is endlessly, and uselessly, hustling. It sounds like Heck will do the same thing — Nixon as an ethics teacher is almost a straight rip off of G. David Schine, but a brilliant steal none the less. It makes a great deal of sense that Hell means different things to different people at different points in their lives. This is a cute and clever way to explore that.

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