Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Review

Thursday, March 3rd 2016


“Words were different when they lived inside of you.”

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is the most refreshing contemporary stand alone novel that I have ever read in the summer of 2015. This small novel holds more serious, mind you controversial themes that you would imagine in only  359 pages. The book is uniquely strutted into six sections that divided each theme with a corresponding chapters either have a preceding a quote from another author or a quote from another author.

The 6 sections and their featuring quotes are:

The Different Rules of Summer

“The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.”

Sparrows Falling from the Sky

“When I was a boy, I used to wake up thinking that the world was ending.”

The End of Summer

“Do you remember the summer of the rain… You must let everything fall that wants to fall.” – Karen Fiser

Letters on a Page

“There are some words I’ll never learn to spell.”

Remember the Rain

“turning the pages patiently in search of meanings”W.S. Merwin

All the Secrets of the Universe

“Through all of youth I was looking for you without knowing what I was looking for.”W.S. Merwin

I never read a book like hits before. My heart fell in love with the way the book is written as well as the honest internal conflicts we have all endure while coming to age, especially during our sexual investigation/curiosity teen early years towards adulthood.
There are times when authors write works of fiction that despite how great their writing techniques are you do not truly connect deeply with the characters in comparison to how deeply the enivorment the characters call home. While reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, I felt that the author Benjamin Alire Sáenz truly put more than his time into writing this novel but his own experiences which made my heart swell during the rise and falls that surrounded Ari. My heart also broke towards the struggles the author must have have during his life struggling with his identity that allowed him to come out to the world at 52 years old. To me I felt through his writing of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, that he was able to release most of the issues he’s faced to help others who probably are struggling with different aspects of life that the themes of the book clearly depict.

The themes that you will meet during the reading of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe are:

Mexican-American Identity
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Gender and Sexuality
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Family Relationships
I connected with the family elements of the novel, especially with Ari. Aristotle is the youngest of his siblings by a landslide, his sister Cecilia for example treats him more like a her own son verses a brother. I also enjoyed how Dante was able to connect with Ari’s dad in a way that he never could at the beginning of the novel. Usually I would spend time taking about character development, however I feel that the family elements, in itself were it’s on character development.

Hate Crime
View Spoiler »

View Spoiler »



If you haven’t notice I love this novel. I have already asked all my dearest friends to give this novel a chances in their bookshelf as well as in their hearts. I would not ask you to do any less. I truly love this novel and I feel that everyone should give the novel a chances, despite if you fall in love with it as deeply as I have. I feel that any book that speaks about the issues involving how to love freely, and being able to love freely needs to be loved (especially when it’s well written) it needs to continue to speared the novel as well!!

We can all learn for each other and this book is no different.
Happy Reading Everyone

About Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Benjamin Alire Sáenz (born 16 August 1954) is an award-winning American poet, novelist and writer of children’s books.

He was born at Old Picacho, New Mexico, the fourth of seven children, and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla, New Mexico. He graduated from Las Cruces High School in 1972. That fall, he entered St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado where he received a B.A. degree in Humanities and Philosophy in 1977. He studied Theology at the University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium from 1977 to 1981. He was a priest for a few years in El Paso, Texas before leaving the order.

In 1985, he returned to school, and studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso where he earned an M.A. degree in Creative Writing. He then spent a year at the University of Iowa as a PhD student in American Literature. A year later, he was awarded a Wallace E. Stegner fellowship. While at Stanford University under the guidance of Denise Levertov, he completed his first book of poems, Calendar of Dust, which won an American Book Award in 1992. He entered the Ph.D. program at Stanford and continued his studies for two more years. Before completing his Ph.D., he moved back to the border and began teaching at the University of Texas at El Paso in the bilingual MFA program.

His first novel, Carry Me Like Water was a saga that brought together the Victorian novel and the Latin American tradition of magic realism and received much critical attention.

In The Book of What Remains (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), his fifth book of poems, he writes to the core truth of life’s ever-shifting memories. Set along the Mexican border, the contrast between the desert’s austere beauty and the brutality of border politics mirrors humanity’s capacity for both generosity and cruelty.

In 2005, he curated a show of photographs by Julian Cardona.

He continues to teach in the Creative Writing Department at the University of Texas at El Paso.

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