Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, Pt. 2

[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 Spring 2020: SCANDAL, 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. My summaries of L.Q., ‘edits’ as Lewis Lapham has called them, continue.]

Previous posts on SCANDAL:
Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, Pt. 1 – Overview

SCANDAL is here.

There is an online Table Of Contents. Underlined items are a link. The left side links to the extract or essay, right side to author info. Inquiring minds may explore. I like free, as long as I’m not paying for it. Judging from the lengthy list of donors to the Agora Foundation that supports Lapham’s Quarterly, I strongly suspect L.Q. is not profitable in economic terms. I’m guessing it is a work of sheer strength of will and determination on the part of Lewis Lapham and others to educate the present with the past, in hopes for a better future.

The Voices In Time sections this issue are Smoke (23), Fire (22), and Ash (23). (68 extracts.)


I found Lucian, c. 160 B.C.,  very insightful regarding slander. I earmarked whole paragraphs for reference. Some tidbits:

“Untrue and slanderous accusations made against relatives and friends have often caused the ruin of families and the complete destruction of cities, the mad fury of fathers against their children, brothers against their siblings, children against their parents, and lovers against their beloved. …

The easiest place to see slanderers is in the courts of kings. They are held in high esteem in the coteries of those who wield power and influence, where envy is rife, suspicion has a thousand voices, and the opportunities for flattery and slander are legion. It is a maxim that where you find greater expectations, you will always also find deeper jealousies, more dangerous hatreds, and more subtly managed rivalries. Everyone keeps a close eye on everyone else. They are like gladiators watching for an exposed area of their opponent’s body to attack. …

The contest is not for small stakes. That is why they think up cunning stratagems against one another, the swiftest and most dangerous being that of slander. …

The most frequent victim of slander is the person held in high regard. This is what renders him an object of envy to those he has left in his wake. … Everyone thinks that he himself will occupy the top position if he has laid successful siege to the chorus leader and removed him from the charmed circle.” (p. 25)

“When besieging a city, the enemy doesn’t approach the high, precipitous, well-defended parts of the wall. They advance with full force against the place they see is unguarded, weak, or low because they reckon it is where they will be able to break in and capture the city. Slan- derers operate the same way. They look for the soul’s weak spot, where it is close to collapse and easily accessible, and attack there.

The siege engines they use against their hearers include deceit, lies, oaths, persistence, and brazenness, among thousands of other villainies. But the greatest of these is flattery, a close relative—or rather, a sister—of slander.” (p. 26)

The notes about the author enlighten:

“Born circa 120, Lucian was apprenticed to a sculptor in his native Samosata before becoming a successful rhetorician in Italy and Gaul. Around 160 he settled in Athens, retired from public speaking, and devoted himself to writing satirical essays, of which about seventy survive; most are playfully modeled after the works of the philosophers Plato and Menippus.” (p. 26)

How does one become a successful rhetorician? Samosata is in southern Turkey, east of central, and now lies under the waters behind Ataturk Dam. Lucian is known for his sarcasm and satire, a man after my own heart to whom I can only aspire.

L.Q.’s extract of Slander is more abbreviated than the full text I found on the internet. Mercifully so.

Speaking of Side-Quotes, as I did in Pt. 1, I stumbled upon this one on p. 34:

“It is impossible, except for theologians, to conceive of a worldwide scandal or a universe- wide scandal; the proof of this is the way people have settled down to living with nuclear fission, radiation poisoning, hydrogen bombs, satellites, and space rockets.”  —Mary McCarthy, 1961

One might think we can get used to anything. Will we become blasé about COVID-19? I hope not.

After perusing Ms. McCarthy’s Wiki-bio, I’m a little surprised she didn’t have an extract in this issue, 1. Because “Her debut novel, The Company She Keeps, received critical acclaim as a succès de scandale, depicting the social milieu of New York intellectuals of the late 1930s with unreserved frankness.” (Wiki), 2. Because of her close friendship with Hannah Arendt, another favored contributor to L.Q., and 3. Because she was a contributor to Harper’s Magazine, which was once under the long-term editorship of L.Q. founder Lewis H. Lapham.

Like so many 19th and 20th century women in L.Q., Ms. McCarthy was a ‘freer spirit’ than contemporaries of her time, not that there’s anything wrong with that! She was married four times, and had a (scandalous, should we say?) dust-up with writer Lillian Hellman about philosophical differences on Stalinist communism. She notably said, on American humorist Dick Cavett’s tv show, “every word [Hellman] writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.” (Wiki.)

“McCarthy also engaged in a controversy[clarification needed] with USAF general James Risner over their meeting while he was a POW in North Vietnam.[10]” (Wiki.)


In 1910, contemporary Puritan W.T. Stead gives testimony on using a free press to thwart or shame bad behavior:

“If the state desires to encourage divorce, by all means, let all divorce cases be heard in camera. If on the other hand the true policy is to discourage divorce, there should be no interference with the liberty of the press to report, at its discretion, the proceedings of the divorce court. Whatever evils result from the publication of filthy evidence, they are as dust in the balance compared with the evils which would result from any attempt to restrict, by law, the reporting of the proceedings of the court.” (p. 31) (Free!)

Notes on the author reveal a curiosity:

“His 1885 series of articles exposing child prostitution led to the so-called Stead Act, which raised the age of consent in the UK from thirteen to sixteen. Less than two years after providing this testimony [1910], Stead was invited to deliver a lecture on world peace in New York City and booked passage on the Titanic. He was last seen assisting women and children into lifeboats.” (p. 32)

Speaking of divorce proceedings, Among The Contributors notes:

“While living in Paris in 1913, novelist Edith Wharton (1862–1937) divorced her husband, Teddy, a “cerebrally compromised” adulterer who had embezzled $50,000 from her trust funds. Divorce proceedings in French courts remained private; no word of the separation appeared in the New York Times.” (p. 8)

Apparently, Stead’s entreaty didn’t reach far. Scandalous.

The above picture (L.Q. p. 24) represents scandal most insidious. Many of you, Americans of a certain age, at least, will remember the event. That look on Joan Kennedy’s face just screams volumes to me. Mary Jo’s Wikipedia entry enlightens for those that would ‘glean vicarious pleasure’. (Online dictionary.)

Anton Chekov (playwright of Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters) has a complete, amusing story on how one might unwittingly generate their own scandal. Free at L.Q. online. Notes on the author:

“By the time he died, in 1904, he had written some five hundred short stories. “Chekhov’s comic sketches,” wrote the Russian scholar Alexander Chudakov, “always take some fragment of life, with no beginning or end, and simply offer it for inspection.”” (p. 30)

To be continued…

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.

8 thoughts on “Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, Pt. 2

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 )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s