Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2014: Youth, pt. IV and Last, Notes on Coming Of Age

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
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L.Q. posts are for inquiring minds and avid readers.  I gently chide you if you do not proceed.

As I have finished reading this quarter’s issue I now have time to read one or two quarterly back issues before the next issue is published in September.  I think Book of Nature and Ways of Learning, Summer and Fall 2008 respectively, are next.  Thus I will be briefer in concluding this review.  Perhaps I’ll highlight the remaining items I thought were particularly outstanding.

The three sections in Voices in Time this issue are Salad Days, Growing Pains, and Coming of Age.

Voices in Time

Coming of Age

  • Donna Tartt’s Mother-Son Moment: 2013 / New York City
  •   This one is timely because it is recently published and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2014.  By coincidence m’lady has been reading it on her Kindle app though she hasn’t said much about it.  This excerpt is L.Q. is a good coming-of-age selection and well written dare I say.  It doesn’t tell me enough of the whole story to entice me to jump into reading the entire 750+ page novel.  Amazon enlightens somewhat:
    “From Publishers Weekly
    Donna Tartt’s latest novel clocks in at an unwieldy 784 pages. The story begins with an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum that kills narrator Theo Decker’s beloved mother and results in his unlikely possession of a Dutch masterwork called The Goldfinch. Shootouts, gangsters, pillowcases, storage lockers, and the black market for art all play parts in the ensuing life of the painting in Theo’s care. With the same flair for suspense that made The Secret History (1992) such a masterpiece, The Goldfinch features the pulp of a typical bildungsroman—Theo’s dissolution into teenage delinquency and climb back out, his passionate friendship with the very funny Boris, his obsession with Pippa (a girl he first encounters minutes before the explosion)—but the painting is the novel’s secret heart. Theo’s fate hinges on the painting, and both take on depth as it steers Theo’s life. Some sentences are clunky (suddenly and meanwhile abound), metaphors are repetitive (Theo’s mother is compared to birds three times in 10 pages), and plot points are overly coincidental (as if inspired by TV), but there’s a bewitching urgency to the narration that’s impossible to resist. Theo is magnetic, perhaps because of his well-meaning criminality. The Goldfinch is a pleasure to read; with more economy to the brushstrokes, it might have been great. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Oct. 22)”
  • A Time for Ruin: c. 1330 / Kyoto
  • Poor Stupid Me: 1837 / London
  • Coming Full Circle: c. 18 BC / Rome
  • It Began in the Shower: 1956 / Paris
  •   As a boy black writer James Baldwin kisses another boy.  Hm.
  • How to Become a Knight: c. 1190 / France
  • When to Wage Jihad: 1998 / Afghanistan
  •   This short piece is noteworthy only because it is written by Osama bin Laden.  Know thine enemy.
  • The Spelling Book: c. 1865 / Malden, WV
  •     Booker T. Washington is determined to learn, and he does.
  • Student Protest: 1965 / New York City
  •   Phil Ochs, a 60’s folk music protest singer who I mention because he attended the same military school I did five years before me.  I listened to his music in the 60’s and enjoyed it.  Within the last year or so I happen to see a documentary about him.  I think this is the link.
  • Postgraduate Education: c. 1771 / Loir-et-Cher
  • James Joyce Writes a Report Card: c. 1890 / Dublin
  •   I personally found this one somewhat incomprehensible, but I’m a dunce.  James Joyce will have to go on without me.
  • A Glimmer of Goodbye: 1917 / Edinburgh
  • Youth Will be Saved: c. 630 / Mecca
  •   An excerpt of “the legendary life of the Prophet Muhammad’s uncle”.  Know thine revered or enemy.
  • Rite of Passage: c. 1963 / Yokohama
  •   Disgusting excerpt of coming of age by bashing a kitten against a log to kill it.  I remember when I was about the age of third grade elementary school (8 or 9 years old?).  I was playing in the woods with friends, a favorite pastime of my childhood.  They found a turtle in a dried stream bed.  It was summer and the northern Virginia weather was warm as I recall.  They started throwing rocks at the turtle.  They kept doing it and cracked the shell until it was bleeding.  I remember feeling sickened.  I didn’t throw any  rocks but I didn’t do anything to stop my friends.  Is that what the world has come to?  I won’t help you but I won’t stop you either.  I’m glad I was sickened and didn’t throw rocks.  The poor turtle was harmless.  I suspect it was killed or died soon after.  When do we stand up and say STOP!
  • Godlike Independence: 1841 / Concord, MA
  •   Ralph Waldo Emerson from Self Reliance.  I like what he has to say about independent thinking but I don’t agree with his tying it all back to God as the source.
    “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide, that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion—that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.” (p. 171) (Free.)
  • Aristophanes’ Charm School: c. 392 BC / Athens
  • Coming Out: c. 1879 / New York City
  • Coming to Maturity: 1904 / Massachusetts
  • Sweet Dream: 1733 / Murano
  • Clearing for Takeoff: 1926 / Toulouse
  • Youth Springs Eternal: c. 1350 / India
  • Sweet, Bewitching Youth: 1912 / Venice
  • My Boyfriend’s Back: c. 305 / Rome
  • Difference of Opinion: 1924 / Seattle
  • Human Capital : c. 1525 / Shangxi Province
  • Young and at Sea: 1898 / London
  •   Joseph Conrad.  Ahhh.  Here is great writing.  Descriptive, insightful.  Add Conrad to my reading list.
    ““I need not tell you what it is to be knocking about in an open boat. I remember nights and days of calm, when we pulled, we pulled, and the boat seemed to stand still, as if bewitched within the circle of the sea horizon. I remember the heat, the deluge of rain squalls that kept us baling for dear life (but filled our water cask), and I remember sixteen hours on end with a mouth dry as a cinder and a steering oar over the stern to keep my first command head on to a breaking sea. I did not know how good a man I was till then. I remember the drawn faces, the dejected figures of my two men, and I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back anymore—the feeling that I could last forever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that lures us on to joys, to perils, to love, to vain effort—to death; the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat of life in the handful of dust, the glow in the heart that with every year grows dim, grows cold, grows small, and expires—and expires, too soon, too soon—before life itself.” (p. 196) (Free.)
    He was noteworthy in L.Q. Summer 2013: The Sea here and here.
  • Vain Regret: c. 1825 / Mikhailovskoe
  • Joan Didion Sees the Film Dissolve: 1967 / Los Angeles
  •   Superb!  I discover yet another great author.  I must read more Joan.  This piece is coming of age in retrospect.  Nostalgic, not a lot of warmth.

    “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and
    harder to see the ends. I can remember now,
    with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back
    of my neck constrict, when New York began for
    me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment
    it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities
    and second starts and broken resolves to the exact
    place on the page where the heroine is no longer
    as optimistic as she once was. When I first saw
    New York I was twenty, and it was summertime,
    and I got off a DC-7 at the old Idlewild tempo-
    rary terminal in a new dress which had seemed
    very smart in Sacramento but seemed less smart
    already, even in the old Idlewild temporary ter-
    minal, and the warm air smelled of mildew and
    some instinct, programmed by all the movies I
    had ever seen and all the songs I had ever heard
    sung and all the stories I had ever read about
    New York, informed me that it would never be
    quite the same again. In fact it never was.” (p. 200)

  • Five-Point Plan: 1924 / Geneva

Departments  (All the remaining items are free.  Enjoy.)




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