[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review, Photography]
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L.Q. posts are for inquiring minds and avid readers. I gently chide you if you do not proceed. Consider this as much or more a pre-view as a post-view.
As posted previously the first section in Voices in Time this issue is Howling Wilderness. Lewis Lapham noted in his Preamble: “The contributors to the pages in “Howling Wilderness” discover in nature the colossal power that commands worship and instills fear…”.
The first voice is frequently a present-day author and this issue is not different. Charles Bowden, 2006 – Sonoran Desert.
“I’d always come here for the dreams. The nature business was simple a ruse, just as going to a bar for company is a ruse.” (p. 19)
I’ve never heard of him. He writes well, IMHO, and gets into a bit of whacky, Kerouac-ian stream of consciousness. He is in good company. Apparently he is a seasoned, desiccated desert dweller. He has written a lot of books about the desert and the Mexican drug traffic. Google him or check these links:
Desert for Mr. Bowden:
The topic of nature seems to lend itself well to poetry, which is usually incomprehensible to me.
“Tyger! Tyer! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could farm thy fearful symmetry?”
–William Blake, 1794 (p. 21)
“On a white poppy,
a butterfly’s torn wing
is a keepsake
The bee emerging
from deep within the peony
–Matsuo Basho, 1684 (p. 41)
Among others there is Dante Alighieri from the Inferno and William Wordsworth from Tintern Abbey.
Kant is here, for whom I do not care. He lays the groundwork for a thought manual, defining a ‘feeling of the sublime’ vs a ‘feeling of the beautiful’. (p. 22) As for me, I’ve been trained by my own thought police not to trust him.
The story of Douglas Mawson, Antarctica 1913, (check WIKI) by Evan S. Connell is superb. Howling Wilderness indeed.
Henry Beston, 1928:
“In the luminous east, two great stars aslant were rising clear of the exhalations of darkness gathered at the rim of night and ocean–Betelgeuse and Bellatrix, the shoulders of Orion. Autumn had come, and the Giant wood again at the horizon of day and the ebbing year, his belt still hidden in the bank of cloud, his feet in the deeps of space and the far surges of the sea.” (p. 31)
I highlighted quite a bit of this one.
“Do no dishonor to the earth lest you dishonor the spirit of man. Hold your hands out over the earth as over a flame.” (p. 32)
Pliny the Younger’s description of the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder at Pompeii is exemplary.
John Muir waxes eloquent in defense of nature:
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” (p. 40) (free)
Thoreau waxes eloquent ‘when ants attack’. (free)
Edward Hoagland, yet another nature and travel writer with whom I’m not familiar,is noteworthy:
“Nature is not sentimental. The scenery that recruits our spirits in temperate weather may turn unforgiving in the winter.”
“A mountain can be like that all at once. Summer at the bottom, winter at the top; and you climb through all the climates of the year as you scramble up.” (p. 59)
Jack London reports on the San Francisco earthquake 1906. This is another author I must read despite the discussion of his possible plagiarism. White Fang, The Sea-Wolf, Call of the Wild, all written before his death at the age of 40. Wiki.
Enough of this writing. I must READ. “And miles to go before I sleep.” (Robert Frost of course. Odd that he is not present in the Book of Nature. Too mundane for L.Q. perhaps.)