[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 Winter 2020: MEMORY, except where noted.]
[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 45+ LQ summaries I jump right in.]
[This is a READING section, for those who may stumble in looking for photography.]
[I discovered commenting was accidentally turned off for my summaries on CLIMATE. They are back on now.]
The Voices In Time this issue are Save, Edit, and Delete.
An online Table of Contents is available HERE. Underlined items are a link. The left side links to the extract or essay, right side to author info. Inquiring minds may explore.
EDIT starts with a bit more verve in the first several extracts than did SAVE.
We in the U.S. are in the process of editing our memories of the American Civil War, mid-nineteenth century, with respect to the many statues erected in the South commemorating Confederate military on the losing side that supported slavery. The first extract is New Orleans’ mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2017 explaining the removal of the General Robert E. Lee statue, now residing in an undisclosed location, as near as I can ascertain. As I noted in Pt. 1 of my MEMORY summary, I have a problem with erasing history, but Landrieu makes notable points in his speech:
“Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an Afri- can American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth-grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city.
Can you do it?
Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limit- less potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?” (p. 77)
“The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart
our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.” (p. 78) Free online.
Gustave Flaubert, if you are a fan, tells a story of two friends carousing and their edited memories and fill-in-the-blanks in recollecting. Free online.
Hugo Munsterberg relates the accuracy, or not, of court testimony about a theft. Memory can be selective! Free.
Mark Twain (I’m a fan!) has a superbly witty piece in a letter to Helen Keller, the blind and deaf woman whose own story is monumental. He posits that there is no original thought:
“Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that “pla- giarism” farce! As if there was much of any- thing in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are secondhand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral caliber and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.” (p. 85)
Mark Twain, from a letter to Helen Keller. “I met Mark Twain,” the deaf and blind author wrote in 1958, “when I was fourteen years old, and from that day until his death we were friends.” Keller had been accused—and later acquitted—of plagiarism when she was twelve, a fact Twain learned from reading her autobiography. (p. 86) Free online.
Luc Sante, in 2015, expounds on ‘accrued time’ (history, I believe he means).
“The city of Paris’ principal constituent matter is accrued time. The place is lousy with it.”
“History is always in the gun sights of planners and developers, and of reactionaries, who in the absence of a convenient past are content to invent one, winding their fantasies around some factual nugget suitably distant and fogged by legend.”
“The past is hardly a single era, after all, but the combined, composted layers of a thousand eras, and any given moment in- cludes some proportionate blend of all those eras. The future is a threat or a sales pitch, the present flies around you like the landscape as seen from a moving car, but the past is what you stand on, lean against, breathe in. (p. 88)
Marcel Proust comments on how memory resides in objects that remind or recall the past:
“What intellect restores to us under the name of the past is not the past. In reality, as soon as each hour of one’s life has died, it embodies itself in some material object, as do the souls of the dead in certain folk stories, and hides there. There it remains captive, captive forever, un- less we should happen on the object, recognize what lies within, call it by its name, and so set it free.” (p. 91)
Proust, and his magnum opus Remembrance of the Past/In Search of Lost Time, I have heard of but I am not familiar with and are worthy of perusal on Wikipedia.
Sigmund Freud comments on ways of dredging repressed and resisted memories:
“The aim of these different techniques has, of course, re- mained the same. Descriptively speaking, it is to fill in gaps in memory; dynamically speaking, it is to overcome resistances due to repression.” (p. 94)
I found the 1832 extract from Middlemarch, by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), quite intriguing. It is free at L.Q. online and I recommend a careful read. In terms of memory there are notable comments about regret and rationalization:
“The terror of being judged sharpens the memory: it sends an inevitable glare over that long-unvisited past which has been habitually recalled only in general phrases.”
“…intense memory forces a man to own his blameworthy past.”
“…he felt the scenes of his earlier life coming between him and everything else, as obstinately as when we look through the window from a lit room, the objects we turn our backs on are still before us, instead of the grass and the trees.” (p. 97) (–Well said, and a pause for reflection. –JH)
“And it was true that Bulstrode found himself carrying on two distinct lives; his religious activity could not be incompatible with his business as soon as he had argued himself into not feeling it incompatible.” (p. 98)
I often think I spend as much time in Wikipedia as I do reading Lapham’s Quarterly, searching for information about authors and their works. Ms. Eliot was a highly accomplished writer. Middlemarch, 880 pages, is described by some accomplished contemporary authors as ‘the greatest novel in the English language’. Oddly, or coincidentally, like so many women authors of the 19th and early 20th centuries, in L.Q. pages, Ms. Eliot was a ‘liberated’ woman in that she engaged in extra-marital or out-of-wedlock affairs at a time when it must have been very difficult to do so, given the stricter social mores present. A listed study would be worthy of one’s spare time, if only to show the strength of their convictions. Queen Boudica/Boadicea and the Iceni tribe, 1 A.D./C.E., are another good Wiki read.
Speaking of the removal of history and its statues, as I did at the beginning of this piece, American abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass speaks eloquently about this issue way back in 1871:
“We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admira- tion those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice.
I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not repel the repentant; but may my “right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth” if I forget the difference between the parties to that terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict.” (p. 105) Free.
To be continued…