Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2013: Animals

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]

I finished reading this quarter’s superb literary compilation of Voices in Time (their term) on the Animals theme in late May. This was good time for me as I didn’t read it during the first 18 days of May due to traveling.

It usually takes me the entire quarter to read it. As usual the length is only around 221 pages including beautiful art reproductions but the quality of literate minds represented does require attention.

Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.

Editor/Publisher Lewis H. Lapham notes in his Preamble that man’s attitude toward animals has changed over the centuries. Aesop and Aristotle noted the similarities in traits between the two and attempted to understand either better by comparing them. Early Christianity added symbolism (the bee a sign of hope, the crow and goat references to Satan) and mythical beings (the dragon and the unicorn).


“The resurrection of classical antiquity in fifteenth-century Italy restored the emphasis on the observable correlation between man and beast.”

“Over the course of the last two centuries, animals have become all but invisible in the American scheme of things, drummed out of the society of their myth-making companions, gone from the rural as well as the urban landscape.”

“Between 150,000 and 200,000 horses could be found in the streets of New York City in 1900, requiring the daily collection of five million pounds of manure. By 1912, their function as a means of transport had been outsourced to the automobile.”

Have we gone to the dogs?

The three Voices in Time sections this issue are grouped Kingdom, Family, and Species.

The second item in Kingdom is an extract from Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I’d forgotten how powerful was the descriptive writing.  He.. could.. write. A sample:

“Like noiseless nautilus shells, their light prows sped through the sea, but only slowly they neared the foe. As they neared him, the ocean grew still more smooth; seemed draw-
ing a carpet over its waves; seemed a noon meadow, so serenely it spread. At length the breathless hunter came so nigh his seemingly unsuspecting prey that his entire dazzling hump was distinctly visible, sliding along the sea as if an isolated thing and continually set in a revolving ring of finest, fleecy, greenish foam. He saw the vast, involved wrinkles of the slightly projecting head beyond. Before it, far out on the soft Turkish-rugged waters, went the glistening white shadow from his broad, milky forehead, a musical rippling playfully accompanying the shade; and behind, the blue waters interchangeably flowed over into the moving valley of his steady wake; and on either hand bright bubbles arose and danced by his side.” (p. 27)

There is a reason it is a ‘classic’. I must read it again. I recall reading his short novel Billy Budd in a college lit class. “Handsome is as handsome does, that’s what they say about Billy Budd” if my recollection is close. Christ-figure symbolism the professor said. Another re-read perhaps.

‘Classic’ goes for the Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath extract also, item five:

Does it get any better than that?

I enjoyed this issue. It was more easy-going than Winter: Intoxication or last autumn’s presidentially timely Fall: Politics. Following are just a few of my more favorite extracts:

p. 42 ** Of Borneo, the Thousand Steps, and orangutangs. From the author of Master and Commander. Thoughtful.

p. 60 ** A River Runs Through It, 1937 Montana, Norman McLean. Well-written description of short-casting fly. Excellent.

p. 69. ** Audubon 1813. Million-pigeon flocks and slaughter.

p. 74 ** Aesop fables, c. 600 B.C.

p. 80 ** John Berger, 1977. Outstanding. Of pets, and animal observation. (Regardless, I love my dog!)

p. 83 ** Police dogs in NYC, 2012. Factual, noteworthy. (free)

[Many extracts are available online for free: The print editions are a treasure to be collected, however.]

p. 105 ** 1880, Crow Butte. Factory Farm. Luther Standing Bear. On cows, buffalos, and indian ways.

p. 107 ** Gerald Durrell, c. 1937 Corfu. Elegantly descriptive. Great story of Achilles the tortoise. Durrell was an English naturalist and zookeeper. Check out Wikipedia:

p. 113 ** Seabiscuit (the race horse). Lauren Hillebrand. Outstanding story of the training of a fine, head-strong animal.

p. 117** Tolstoy, on slaughtering oxen and other animals. Supports my theory that if we each had to kill our own food (animal, fish, or fowl) there would be more vegetarians in the world.

p. 127 ** c. 1183. Arab historian who lived to the age of 93. Nobel account of a fine hunting hawk.

p. 133 ** The Vengeful Donkey. c. 150. Thessaly. Excellent.

The final two extended length essays (available free) were enjoyable, particularly the hilarious Our Orgastic Future.

Oh well, ‘just’ another enjoyable, educational Quarterly. Read it, collect it, enjoy it.

What’s next? The Summer Quarterly: The Sea has arrived. Melville again! What a treat!

I have also purchased and received the very first issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, 2008 Winter: States of War. Why are we savages? Survival of the fittest, or just the cruelest? The inquiry continues.

I’m currently just over halfway through Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl. Superb, and sad. I think she would have been a great author had she survived WWII.

Read on dear friends.

(P.S. This post was written on my iPad2 using the Blogsy app. I still don’t care for blogging from iPad. I will be using my future MacBook Pro or MacBook Air as much as possible.)

6 thoughts on “Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2013: Animals

  1. I read your review of John Stossel’s “No, you Can’t” then looked at your reading list, then decided to follow you and maybe read more of what you read. I like the way ou write. Im not much of a reviewer myself but have made some attempts. Writing takes time, and though I’ve been retired for more than 16 years, I’m still quite busy with parenting (both grand and great) and studying music.


  2. Thank you for your comment. I try to write as I would speak, with the added advantage that I can review what I’m ‘saying’ many times before I actually say it. I’m horrible at coherent oral expression.


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