[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
This IS nasty business.
If you thought INTOXICATION (Winter 2013 issue) was an unpleasant topic “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”.
Winter 2008: States Of War is Lewis Lapham’s first issue and he pulls no punches. No tiptoeing into the public arena for this literary journal. Wasn’t I lulled and lullabyed in my preliminary review. His Preamble politely set the stage and the Calls to Arms section is all ‘Rah Rah’ and ‘The Glories of Battle’. Onward soldiers indeed.
As noted previously Patton is a hoot, but there is a certain sameness in Calls to Arms. All honor and glory. No blood has been spilled… yet.
That changes abruptly with section 2, Rules of Engagement. Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules.
2005, Haditha Iraq. Families slaughtered by U.S. Marines in the fog of war.
1600, German mercenaries. Pillage, loot, burn.
1994, Rwanda. Pure (?) slaughter.
WWII, the American Civil (?) War, Sun Tzu and the Art of War.
Field Reports, section 3, steps it up yet another notch.
Vietnam, of course. (Someone told me there is a museum in the U.S. with 58,000 sets of dog tags representing the 58,000 Americans killed in that war. Don’t get me started.)
The good old Light Brigade. Nice poem, not reprinted in LQ, but a rather factual account that it wasn’t pretty.
Yet another sacking of Rome, by Spaniards in the 16th century. Not pretty.
Relentless slaughter. Pilgrims in America, Jerusalem 70 A.D., Spaniards in the New World in 1542.
It’s all well written, and not pornographically gory, but it is gory. There seems to be no beginning or end to it. Then… now… always?
My Lai, gas chambers, Nagasaki.
The final section is Postmortems. Merriam-Webster Online defines it:
1. : done, occurring, or collected after death <postmortemtissue specimens>
2 : following the event
After death indeed.
The 1932 letters between Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud are outstanding. Somehow they are not even listed in the online archive content. Google ‘Einstein Freud Why War letters’ for various references. This one seems to reproduce it fairly accurately.
Voltaire, Twain, Tolstoy, Vonnegut, Eisenhower, Lincoln. They all speak well.
The small author info box on the final extract, a poem, put me onto yet another side research tangent about Blenheim and the Duke of Marlborough. I think any single issue of Lapham’s Quarterly could be used for a college history course. “Read the 2 page poem on page 190-191 and give me a 2,500 word report on John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marborough. Include your thoughts on his effectiveness as a military strategist and his contributions or detractions to England as a world power.”
L.Q. would be great for book study groups too.
The final four longer essays, separately titled Further Remarks, were excellent. (All but one in my opinion.)
One was The Persian Way of War, in Herodotus’ time (500-400 B.C.) That moved me into side research on Behistun and Darius.
Another spoke about Germany’s Wilhelm II and the pathetic circumstances of WWI.
I took exception with Storm Warning. Wayyyy to Politically (environmentally, etc.) Correct, with a stretched comparison between the Fall of Rome and modern-day America.
Despite the very distasteful subject matter (all the more reason to read and inquire?) I very highly recommend this issue of Lapham’s Quarterly. If we turn our back on the past are we doing the same for our future?
I attended a WWII plaque commemoration in Etten-Leur, Belgium last May and a Belgian presenter said, in what I first thought might be broken English, “We study history so we can know what we have done”. On second thought I think he was totally accurate. We seem to wade into and through war never really sure of what we are doing. We must study the past to know what we’ve done.
Don’t ignore the unpleasant subjects.