Lapham’s Quarterly Winter 2013: Intoxication

Winter 2012: Intoxication

The cover figure is a kylix (drinking cup).

FINISHED!  Reading, that is.  In record time for me.  One month of reading and only a half month into the Jan-Mar winter quarter.  I usually spend the entire quarter intermittently reading this excellent literary compendium.  Now I will have time to investigate the noteworthy Fall 2011 issue The Future as well as browse the free articles available from all the Archives.

FREE STUFF.  Ever the budget conscious as I am (we should all get value for our nickel, dime, trillion-dollar coin) you can sample some articles from every issue via the following links:  (Click View Contents on an issue.)

Since even we with the most modest incomes these days spend an annual fortune on cellphones, tablets, and cable TV I strongly encourage you to spend the very modest sum needed to subscribe to and keep this outstanding journal.  (That’s enough advertising.  I should get a commission, or at least a paper route.  On with the show and tell.)

P. 7 is a list of the Art, Photography, and Illustrations.  That is how I know the front cover is a kylix.  In the digital edition, accessed through a computer internet browser, both the Table of Contents and this art list have links to each item, making navigation easy.  There is also a sidebar on the web page with a linked contents table and search, archive, and help tabs.  It looks like this:


Next is Among the Contributors, with pictures and comments on 18 people.  I like what Anne Roiphe (never heard of her before) said about books:


Then we have a two-page spread on Indigenous Intoxicants throughout the world.  Here is a clipped portion covering the U.S.:


Thank you to the superb Evernote App (available on Macbook, iPad, and iPhone) for its excellent note composing and screen clipping capabilities.  I love it and recommend it.  (It’s FREE and huge value even if you paid for it.)

Mr. Lewis H. Lapham’s always eloquent and insightful introductory essay is next.  It is titled Alms for Oblivion.   Mr. Lapham starts with 13 lines from Shakespeare, one of Hamlet’s soliloquies.  Two lines are a couple of my favorite out-of-context retorts:



Mr. Lapham notes that Americans have alway drank a lot.  He has drank.  He took LSD once in 1959 as part of a supervised medical experiment with Allen Ginsberg no less. (!)  He notes that prohibition, alcohol in the 1920s and 30s, other drugs now, foster huge criminal enterprises and huge expense in attempting to stifle them.  He quotes some in support of intoxicants and some against them, such as addicted jazz singer Billie Holiday:  “If you think you need stuff to play music or sing, you’re crazy.  It can fix you so you can’t play nothing or sing nothing.” (P. 17)  He quotes Captain Frederick Marryat, who wrote a lot in the early 19th century, for the curious:,

As usual the main body Voices in Time is divided into 3 sections.  (Every Quarterly may be this way.  I haven’t looked at them all.)  The sections for the theme of Intoxication are The Urge (25 items), The High (30 items). and The Hangover (27 items).  This is far more items than the last issue, Politics, which had 22 items per section for a total of 66 vs. the 82 items in Intoxication.  Does this mean the learned Voices this issue didn’t have much to say on the topic or did the experienced subject influence their general brevity?  Perhaps it is only that Lapham’s is catering to Attention Deficit such as mine and/or is giving in to the modern technology-induced mosaic of soundbite sized communication discussed in the Spring 2012 issue Means of Communication.

WARNING:  Reading this issue will likely NOT entice you (attract or tempt by offering pleasure or advantage) into sampling intoxicants.  There is some humor, some pathos and despair, and some disgust contained within.  I’ve sampled before and I found nothing herein to pique my curiosity about past or future endeavors.

It’s notable a fair number of artists and writers have wrestled with intoxicants.  Some have been productive regardless and many have lived shorter lives as a result.  Consumption does not appear to be a universal prerequisite to gaining access to the muses.


Tobacco, marijuana, wine, sake, opium, alcohol.  Those are mentioned in just the first six Voices.  Number seven is my favorite.  COFFEE.  Although I wouldn’t know good coffee if I stepped in it due to the excessive addition of creamers and sweeteners to the cheap coffees I drink, I consume prodiguous quantities daily, tweaked to just the right low percentage of caffeination to keep me awake and aware without being jittery, or so I delude myself into thinking.  Is the human body just a stimulate processing factory, from that first gasp and gulp of air craved immediately after we are extenerated ex utero?  Why else our obsessions with the consumption of sweets and greasy foods to the point of detriment and obesity?  That’s not an ‘instinct’ to be healthy.  We will see if Lapham’s addresses food cravings as an intoxicant.  They have already done a Quarterly on Food.  (PostScript:  Food is not addressed.)

Some observations:

My amused sentiments exactly:


P.  24.  “One should always be drunk.”  “…Drunk with what?  With wine, with poetry or with virtue, as you please.”  Baudelaire, 1867.

P.  29.  Harpo Marx drinking with John Barrymore, who is a drunken mess.

P.  31.  Honore’ De Balzac praises COFFEE!  Coffee, coffee, coffee!!

P.  49.  King James I on the sins of tobacco in 1604.  Cease and Desist: 1604 / London  Ties in with the Players Club essay (p. 200) about Shakespearean drinking.

P.  56.  Emily Dickinson.  “Inebriate of air –am I–  And Debauchee of Dew–”

P.  57.  Suicidal Sylvia Plath drinking at 20 in 1953 New York City.  Wanton.

P.   63.  Two Years Before the Mast.  On a temperance ship at age 19.  It’s not fair.  Officers drink but not the men.


71.  The joys (not) of ingesting meth and setting yourself on fire.  If this doesn’t put you off trying meth you deserve yourself and no one else does.

Meth on fire


P.  93.  Dorothy Parker, NYC, 1928:  I like this one.  The whims and fancies under the influence of alcohol.  Very funny except for the sadness of being drunk.  It’s too wordy to extract a tidbit and it’s not available through free access.  Pity.  There are many references on the ‘Net.


MP3 audio, $2.99 (I haven’t tried it):

P. 99.  Herman Hesse dining at the spa.  Sounds more like a hangover than a high.

P. 103.  Religious zeal in Europe for the Crusades.  Is the human body just a pleasure machine?

P. 106.  Snake handling in W.V. 1990s.  Nooooo thank you.

P. 110.  Plato: Socrates at a Symposium with drunken rulers.

P. 112.  Jacqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls.  Pills, pills, pills.  …and booze.  No wonder she died young.


P. 139.  Recovery isn’t easy and isn’t fun.  The sirens keep calling you back.

P. 141.  HUMOROUS 17th century petition against the evils of COFFEE!  Love this one.  A favorite.  Hilarious.  Available free:

Nauseous Puddle Water: 1672 / London

P. 150.  Anne Roiphe.  WELL WRITTEN.  1960s hallucinating alcoholics.  FREE: Anne Roiphe Picks Up the Tab: 1963 / New York City

P. 155.  Tolstoy.  EXCELLENT. Eloquent on the evils of smoking.  FREE: Drowning the Conscience: 1890 / Yasnaya Polyana

P. 158.  1950s jazz musician Art Pepper on the abyss of heroin.  Well said.  FREE: Withdrawal Symptoms: 1954 / Los Angeles

P. 172.  Irish.  Amusing comment on Irish attitudes to drinking.

“He drank in what I always think

of as a peculiarly Irish way–in bouts. Between

the bouts his behavior was admirable, so

admirable indeed that he admired it himself; and the

more he admired it, the greater grew the poor

man’s pride till, at last, he had to celebrate it.  The

result of the celebration was that inside a week

he was again a wreck-moral, physical, and financial.”

P. 174.  Genesis, drunken Noah, a curse on the Canaanites, perhaps the precursor to slavery?

P. 176.  1842 Lincoln speech to a Temperance Society.  Outstanding.  The period language is a bit labored for my modern reading but I get his point.  Noteworthy: 

“…it is not much in the nature of man to be

driven to anything, still less to be driven about

that which is exclusively his own business-and

least of all where such driving is to be submitted

to at the expense of pecuniary interest or burning



“When the conduct of men is designed to be

influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persua-

sion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a

true maxim that “a drop of honey catches more

flies than a gallon of gall. ”lf you would win a

man to your cause, first convince him that you

are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey

that catches his heart, which, say what he will,

is the great high road to his reason, and which,

when once gained, you will find but little trouble

in convincing his judgment of the justice of your

cause, if indeed that cause really be ajust one. On

the contrary, assume to dictate to his judgment,

or to command his action, or to mark him as one

to be shunned and despised, and he will retreat

within himself, close all the avenues to his head

and his heart; and though your cause be naked

truth itself; transformed to the heaviest lance,

harder than steel, and sharper than steel can be

made, and though you throw it with more than

herculean force and precision, you shall be no

more able to pierce him than to penetrate the

hard shell of a tortoise with a rye straw.”


The entire article is free at: Better Than a Gallon of Gall: 1842 / Springfield, IL

184.  1954.  Billie Holiday.  EXCELLENT.  Civilized Europe TREATS heroin addiction like a disease. 

“All you have to do is look at the story of my life. If there’s any moral at all in it, it’s this: if you think dope is for kicks and thrills, you’re out of your mind. There are more kicks to be had in a good case of paralytic polio or living in an iron lung. If you think you need stuff to play music or sing, you’re crazy. It can fix you so you can’t play nothing or sing nothing.”

ESSAYS  (All remaining items are available free from the View Contents page mentioned near the beginning.)

P. 191.  Musing on creativity?  I haven’t a clue.  Like one of the essays from the previous issue, Politics, “Cerebral, academic, and full of itself.”

The writer drinks coffee, writes, drinks wine afterwards, muses.  A testament that one can write so much and say so little, at least in the way of communication.

 P. 200.  EXCELLENT.  Historical essay on Shakespearian theater, drinking in Elizabethan England, the role of drinking in many of Shakespeare’s plays.  Available free.



209.  Detective fiction writer Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye) is humorous:

“Alcohol is like love,” he said. “The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off”

Jack London and William S. Burroughs are noteworthy, and chilling.  No ads promoting intoxication here.


Sigmund Freud does cocaine.  (Swell.)

Nixon gets drunk?

George Washington was a big whiskey distiller in retirement.

Aldous Huxley:

On November 22, 1963, Aldous Huxley, bed-ridden and dying, requested on a writing tabletthat his wife Laura give him a 100 microgramdose of LSD. As she went to get the drug fromthe medicine cabinet, Laura was perplexed tosee the doctor and nurses watching TV. Shegave him a second dose a few hours later, andby 5:20 P.M. he had died. Laura later learnedthat the TV had been showing coverage of theassassination of John F. Kennedy, who had beenpronounced dead at 1:00 P.M. that day.


215.  Book Review – Tony Judt.  British historian and apparently great political thinker and intellectual. Reviews of his last two books. Died of ALS.  Not related to intoxication that I can tell.

In closing I say buy it, read it, keep it.

My previous posts on Lapham’s Quarterly:

Lapham’s Quarterly Fall 2012: POLITICS

Lewis Lapham REALLY gets political!

Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2012: Magic Shows

Lewis Lapham gets political.

Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2012: Means of Communication. Finished!

YES! My PRINT edition of Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2012 finally arrived.

7 thoughts on “Lapham’s Quarterly Winter 2013: Intoxication

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s