Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC – preview 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 Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC, 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 50 LQ summaries I jump right in.]

This is a READING section, for kind-hearted souls who may stumble in looking for photography. You are equally kind-hearted if you stay and read.

As I noted in my initial preview of the delayed publication of this historical journal, other references in the Lapham’s Quarterly issue: ‘…Barbara Tuchman writes about the aftermath of the Black Death and how it changed the world, Gene Tierney writes about what it means to live with loss, and Katherine Anne Porter tells us how it feels to return to the world after a devastating illness.’

I recalled that Gene Tierney was a Hollywood movie star, popular during the 1940s, I thought. The internet and Wikipedia, being the unparalleled source of information they are, I couldn’t help but to explore a bit more. (Wikipedia is having a fund drive currently. I’m sure my average use is at least once daily. If I give them $20US, that’s about 5 cents a day.)

Gene Tierney is a woman, as opposed to 1940s/50s actor, singer Gene Kelly, a man.

(Promotional photograph from Wikipedia, author unknown) informs me: “The name Gene means Well Born and is of English origin. Gene is name that’s been used by parents who are considering unisex or non-gendered baby names–baby names that can be used for any gender. … Originally a short form of Eugene. Also a word meaning a basic biological form of heredity. Gene Tierney, actress. Gene Wilder, actor. Gene Kelly, actor/dancer.”

Ms. Tierney was married to legendary fashion designer Oleg Cassini for a time, or vice-versa.

Wikipedia tells me Ms. Tierney is best known for her role in the film Laura, which I’m not familiar with, though I have heard of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, in which she stars opposite Rex Harrison. Heaven Can Wait is mentioned, but I’m further informed it is not an early version of the 1978 Warren Beatty film, and has a different plot.

“…what it means to live with loss…”, in terms of Epidemic, may refer to her first daughter, Daria. Wikipedia:

“In June 1943, while pregnant with Daria, Tierney contracted rubella (German measles), likely from a fan ill with the disease.[13] Antoinette Daria Cassini was born prematurely in Washington, DC, weighing three pounds, two ounces (1.42 kg) and requiring a total blood transfusion. The rubella caused congenital damage: Daria was deaf, partially blind with cataracts, and severely mentally disabled. She was institutionalized for much of her life.[13] This entire incident was inspiration for a plot point in the 1962 Agatha Christie novel The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side.[citation needed]

Tierney’s friend Howard Hughes paid for Daria’s medical expenses, ensuring the girl received the best care. Tierney never forgot his acts of kindness.[4] Daria Cassini died in 2010, at the age of 66.”

She did struggle with mental illness at times, once undergoing 27 shock treatments, a procedure she later opposed, another, spending 20 minutes on a ledge fourteen stories above the ground.

Tierney writing about it may refer to Self-Portrait by Tierney and Herskowitz (1979). I trust L.Q. will enlighten soon.

My speculation continues with Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989), which likely refers to the American historian and author and her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. Per Wiki: “The main title, A Distant Mirror, conveys Tuchman’s idea that the death and suffering of the 14th century reflect that of the 20th century, especially the horrors of World War I.” It’s a narrative history and includes The Black Plague. Shades of epidemic. To say ‘timely’ is an understatement.

Ms. Tuchman’s novel revolves around Enguerrand VII de Coucy, as his life-span covers her period of inquiry. Wikipedia is a great place to read history, always with the proverbial grain of salt. De Coucy dies in captivity after the medieval crusades Battle of Nicopolis, thus Coucy and Nicopolis are great explorations. It’s noteworthy that the Wiki entry on Nicopolis has a LOT of references to Tuchman’s book.

Chateau of Coucy showing donjon tower, watercolor, ca 1820 (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris) By Collectionneur: Destailleur, Hippolyte (1822-1893) – Bibliothèque nationale de France, Public Domain,

Per Wiki: “Coucy was responsible for the maintenance of the castle and additional construction on his familial estates, which consisted of the fortress, 150 towns and villages, famous forests and ponds, along with significant revenue.”

As a previous reader alluded, the Black Plague partially contributed to the dissolution of the feudal system. Wiki on Coucy notes:

“Coucy found his estate in difficult economic and social circumstances when he returned from England in 1366. During his absence, facilities and agricultural properties in the estate communities had been damaged by both armies engaged in the war. Mills, granaries, breweries and other structures had to be rebuilt. Hired labor was in short supply, due both to the Black Death and war casualties. In addition, serfs permanently attached to the estate had fled to outlying communities, seeking work and security. In August 1368, Coucy issued a collective grant of freedom to 22 towns and villages under his control. He noted in the charter that his late father had intended to grant his subjects their freedom, but that the action was prevented by his premature death. Coucy established a system of rents and revenues intended to return the estate to prosperity and attract workers.”

Moving on, Katherine Anne Porter may relate her personal experience with the 1918 influenza, subsequently told in her short novel Pale Horse, Pale Rider.

Katherine Anne Porter (May 15, 1890 – September 18, 1980), Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and political activist. Photograph taken in Mexico, 1930. (Source-Wikipedia)

“The title story “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” is about the relationship between a newspaper woman, Miranda, and a soldier, Adam, during the influenza epidemic of 1918. In the course of the narrative, Miranda becomes sick and delirious, but recovers, only to find that Adam has died of the disease, which he likely caught while tending to her. The story is set in Denver, Colorado. Porter herself lived for a time in Denver, where she wrote reviews for the Rocky Mountain News and was stricken with the influenza.” (Wiki)

“Also in 1915, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent the following two years in sanatoria, where she decided to become a writer. It was discovered during that time, however, that she had bronchitis, not TB. In 1917, she began writing for the Fort Worth Critic, critiquing dramas and writing society gossip. In 1918, she wrote for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado. In the same year, Katherine almost died in Denver during the 1918 flu pandemic. When she was discharged from the hospital months later, she was frail and completely bald. When her hair finally grew back, it was white and remained that color for the rest of her life.[1] Her experience was reflected in her trilogy of short novels, Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939), for which she received the first annual gold medal for literature in 1940 from the Society of Libraries of New York University.[3] (Wiki)

Her best selling novel was Ship of Fools, reproduced in film and the last movie to feature actress Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind).

Google her name for a plethora of preponderance on her work.

All these Wiki links are good reads.

To be continued, pending receipt of the published Lapham’s Quarterly, Epidemic…

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.

6 thoughts on “Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC – preview 2

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