Please, Go to Hells! An Interview with Author Kali V. Roy

This year marks 750 years since the birth of Dante, which means it’s been nearly a millennium of prescribing hell to those so deserving. Of course, our definition of “deserving” isn’t what it was in the Middle Ages. Gluttons or the miserly? How about those talking during movies? Open-mouth chewers or loud typers? Or how about those who inundate you with every asinine detail of their dreams?

Go to Hells offers a witty twist on The Inferno, with new circles of hell for twenty-first-century sinners. Kali Roy’s verse intentionally imitates Dante’s original style and form, but with all the snark and wit of modern life.

We met up with Kali to discuss Dante’s relevance in the twenty-first century, if she actually believes in hell, and more.

Was there a definitive, hellish moment that sparked the idea for Go to Hells?

Yep: the Times Square subway stop: I was trying to get off the train and this woman straight-up pushed me further into the train as she got on. So I did the adult thing. I got all flustered and yelled: be a person!

That’s what Go to Hells is about. It’s basically a series of punishments for people who seem to have temporarily forgotten how to be people.

How is Dante (and his verse style) relevant for modern-day?

Sure, it’s written in terza rima. But that fancy rhyme scheme? Window dressing for some top-notch potty humor: The Inferno is a place where a demon can use “his ass as a trumpet” and particularly loathsome sinners are “plunged in diarrhea.”

Dante was a fabulous crank and observer of the human condition. And, as humans, we appear to be just as proficient as ever at being violent, treacherous, greedy, and just generally treating each other terribly. For better or worse, that makes Dante’s Inferno pretty timeless.

onneshaDo you believe in hell(s)?

I’m an incurable crank with a tiny nugget of hope at my core. To me, The Inferno and Go to Hells! are less about fire-and-brimstone in the afterlife and more about calling out the things that we do to each other here on earth. In this life. They offer a way for people to identify and relate to the crappy things we do to each other, in the hope that maybe we can find ways to be better humans while we’re still, you know, alive and breathing.

Kali V. Roy is the nom de plume of Onnesha Roychoudhuri, a Brooklyn- based writer and comedienne. A 2014 fellow at the Center for Fiction and a Pushcart Prize nominee, her writing has appeared in n+1, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Boston Review, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Opium, The Nation, The American Prospect, Salon, Mother Jones, and others. She performs weekly at the People’s Improv Theater in New York City.

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  1. […] is part a tongue-in-cheek update on Dante's "Inferno," part modern etiquette guide. Roychoudhuri describes it as "a series of punishments for people who seem to have temporarily forgotten how to be […]

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