Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2019: Happiness (fourth comments)

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.]
[L.Q. cover, quotes, and images from Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2019: Happiness, except where noted otherwise.][Right-click on a photo may give the option to open it separately.]
[New to Lapham’s Quarterly? See the standard notes at the end of this review. After 40+ LQ reviews I jump right in.]
L.Q. p. 15

[This is a READING section, for those who may stumble in looking for photography. There are pictures, too.]

I’m pausing my edit-summary of Happiness to share something with you.

I’m giving myself a Lifetime Achievement Award because Lewis Lapham called me on the phone and left a very heart-felt message.

Mr. Lapham is the founder and editor of Lapham’s Quarterly, a former editor of Harper’s Magazine for nearly 30 years (the magazine was founded in 1850), the author of countless essays and over a dozen books and essay compilations.

Some time ago I sent Mr. Lapham a book-form print of my blogging edit-summaries of the first 40 issues, ten years, of Lapham’s Quarterly.  Using Blog2Print online software I was able to make a presentable, though expensive (3-figures), 8 1/2″ x 11″ book of 351 pages.

Mr. Lapham had passed it on to his chairman of the board, and only recently realized he had not thanked me for it, thus the phone call.  I called him back and we chatted for awhile, he very apologetic for not having thanked me sooner, I profoundly honored that he would take the time to call me and acknowledge my scribbling.

As I made clear when I sent the book, I consider my blogging sophomoric and pedestrian, rambling hen scratching at best.  Still, many of us in the blogosphere write, for better or worse; informative travelogues, poetry, stories, haiku, thoughtful commentary (the Women of Lens-Artist Challenge), my LQ summaries.  Surely 351 pages of bad writing is better than no writing at all.  Expression.  Communication.  Hopefully the better side of being human.

To have the founder of such a fine publication as Lapham’s Quarterly call me is, to me, a great honor.  I’m not going to do anything with it other than feel honored.  Just to be acknowledged I find astounding.  “Look, we scribblers are out here, and we’re going to keep on scribbling!!!”

I suppose now I ‘HAVE’ to keep reading L.Q.  (Chuckle.)  Fortunately, I’m into the 12th year of publication-reading this year, and I enjoy it.  Onward.

For a change of pace, after some 46 review-summaries, perhaps I will briefly comment on some of the extracts as I read, particularly ones you can find free online.

The three main sections in Voices in Time this issue are Contentment, Satisfaction [I can’t get no… -JH], and Ecstasy [oh Happiness, wither thous goest? -JH]

The first extract, of course, is not free online, but that’s ok.  It should be subtitled “there’s an app for that” as it is a 2016 piece about Happify, itself now subtitled “for Stress and Worry”. The author’s results were inconclusive.  “I still feel fine most of the time.”  Another said “…but so far, it’s stressing me out.”  Like investing and medical cures, ‘individual results may vary’.

Samuel Johnson (sans Boswell), on the other hand, is much more introspective on happiness in his 1759 allegorical tale.  (Free!)  I think the subtitle is L.Q.’s invention, but it’s a clever play on words.  Look it up: ‘Misery loves Coventry’.  Sayeth Samuel via his fictional Prince:

““What,” said he, “makes the difference between man and all the rest of the animal creation? Every beast that strays beside me has the same corporeal necessities with myself; he is hungry and crops the grass, he is thirsty and drinks the stream, his thirst and hunger are appeased, he is satisfied and sleeps; he rises again and is hungry, he is again fed and is at rest. I am hungry and thirsty like him, but when thirst and hunger cease, I am not at rest. I am, like him, pained with want, but am not like him, satisfied with fullness. The intermediate hours are tedious and gloomy; I long again to be hungry that I may again quicken my attention.” (p. 29)

““That I want nothing,” said the prince, “or that I know not what I want, is the cause of my complaint. If I had any known want, I should have a certain wish; that wish would excite endeavor, and I should not then repine to see the sun move so slowly toward the western mountains, or to lament when the day breaks, and sleep will no longer hide me from myself.” (p. 30)

““Sir,” said he, “if you had seen the miseries of the world, you would know how to value your present state.”

“Now,” said the prince, “you have given me something to desire; I shall long to see the miseries of the world, since the sight of them is necessary to happiness.”” (p. 30)

I recommend it.  Wikipedia is very lengthy on Johnson, but likely shorter than most biographies.

Anton Chekov is (not) happy.  Contemplative, insightful, he muses on the folly of happiness. Here.  RE: his brother eating gooseberries:

“He could not speak for excitement, then put one into his mouth, glanced at me in triumph, like a child at last being given its favorite toy, and said, “How good they are!”

He went on eating greedily and saying all the while, “How good they are! Do try one.”

They were hard and sour, but as Pushkin said, the illusion that exalts us is dearer to us than ten thousand truths. I saw a happy man, one whose dearest dream had come true, who had attained his goal in life, who had got what he wanted, and was pleased with his destiny and with himself. In my idea of human life, there is always some alloy of sadness, but now at the sight of a happy man, I was filled with something like despair.”  (p. 33)

L.Q. p. 65

Aristophanes has the solution.

“I assert that the direction of affairs must be handed over to the women, for it’s they who have charge and look after our households…

Let us therefore hand Athens over to them without endless discussions, without bothering ourselves about what they will do. Let us simply hand them over the power, remembering that they are mothers and will therefore spare the blood of our soldiers.” (p. 62)

It’s a short piece, tongue-in-cheek, I presume.

Mark Twain, as much a cynic as a humorist, I posit, has a brief extract free.

“Satan was accustomed to say that our race lived a life of continuous and uninterrupted self-deception. It duped itself from cradle to grave with shams and delusions which it mistook for realities, and this made its entire life a sham. Of the score of fine qualities which it imagined it had and was vain of, it really possessed hardly one. It regarded itself as gold, and was only brass.”  (p. 44)

Twain is immediately followed by an insightful, but nearly inscrutable, piece by Jiddu Krishnamurti, as Eastern philosophy is so often from India to China to Japan.  Who expects the indescribable to be easy to describe?  Sadly, it’s not free in this issue, but if everything was free we would all be broke.  Don’t get me started on an unknown but presumably well-to-do woman I sat near at a lunch recently who was going on about the socialist/progressive Democratic presidential candidates offer of single-payer, FREE, health care for everyone.  Who can argue with FREE, she said.  Trust me, someone will pay, but I’m not going there!  No politics here, or as little as possible!  I have opinions, lots of those, but I will try not to burden you.  🙂

“Krishnamurti: Pleasure which we pursue is mis-
takenly called happiness, but can you pursue
happiness as you pursue pleasure? Surely we
must be very clear as to whether pleasure is
happiness. Pleasure is gratification, satisfac-
tion, indulgence, entertainment, stimulation.
Most of us think pleasure is happiness, and the
greatest pleasure we consider to be the great-
est happiness. And is happiness the opposite
of unhappiness? Are you trying to be happy
because you are unhappy and dissatisfied? Has
happiness got an opposite at all? Has love got
an opposite? Is your question about happiness
the result of being unhappy?

Questioner: I am unhappy like the rest of the
world, and naturally I don’t want to be, and that
is what is driving me to seek happiness.

Krishnamurti: So happiness to you is the op-
posite of unhappiness. If you were happy, you
wouldn’t seek it. So what is important is not hap-
piness but whether unhappiness can end. That is
the real problem, isn’t it? You are asking about
happiness because you are unhappy, and you ask
this question without finding out whether hap-
piness is the opposite of unhappiness.

Questioner: If you put it that way,I accept it. So
my concern is how to be free from the misery
I am in.

Krishnamurti: Which is more important: to
understand unhappiness or to pursue happi-
ness? If you pursue happiness, it becomes an
escape from unhappiness, and therefore it will
always remain, covered over perhaps, hidden,
but always there, festering inside. So what is
your question now?”

(pp. 45-47)

See what I mean.  It’s almost like reading Gurdjieff, or Heidegger’s Being and Time, both who I remember having read, but little else.  Give me plain ‘ol Paramahansa Yogananda any day.

L.Q. p. 47
L.Q. p. 8

Wikipedia, as always, is very informative on Krishnamurti.

The Table of Contents is online.  Underlined items are available to read free online, extracts underlined on the left, authors on the right.

To be continued…  I will finish this issue eventually, I promise, time and tides permitting.  It is engrossing, and that’s a good thing.

You can get ahead of my reading via Happiness (click List for a better selection).


[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.]
[L.Q. cover, quotes, and images from Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2019: Happiness, except where noted otherwise.]
The standard notes:
1. Since L.Q.’s inception with the Winter 2008 issue its size is always 7″ x 10″ x 1/2-17/32″. It is white-covered, printed on high quality paper throughout, with richly printed reproductions of fine art from time immemorial, and 221 pages up to a page or two of addenda at the back.
2. Each issue contains extracts about the title topic from great authors and thinkers spanning all recorded history. It begins with an eloquent, to a fault, preamble/introduction by editor Lewis Lapham. The main body is called Voices In Time and contains 3 or 4 subcategories of the topic with about 25 extracts per section. Noteworthy sidebars, side quotes, and depictions of appropriate art from the ages are liberally distributed throughout. Several extended contemporary essays bring up the rear. There are several other small sections every issue (Among the Contributors, Conversations, Miscellany, ‘The Graphic’).
3. Per the L.Q. website:
“Lapham’s Quarterly embodies the belief that history is the root of all education, scientific and literary as well as political and economic. Each issue addresses a topic of current interest and concern—war, religion, money, medicine, nature, crime—by bringing up to the microphone of the present the advice and counsel of the past.”
4. I encourage all to subscribe to this fine publication. It is a rich supplement to anyone’s reading.

5 thoughts on “Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2019: Happiness (fourth comments)

  1. Congratulations and so well deserved! What a wonderful thing for him to have done and how right he was to recognize your worthwhile contributions. Bloggers are amazing and very lucky. We have the time to do the things we love and this is a wonderful gift in our lives and a gift for the people who enjoy what we do, as I enjoy your always edifying posts John. Congratulations & so well done!


  2. How wonderful John to receive such a special telephone call – lovely Mr Lapham took the time to ring you but of course it was so wonderful of you to send in printed copy of your blog which is always so interesting and humorous with your additional comments. Well done to you and congrats on the contact!!

    Liked by 1 person

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