Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC – preview 3

[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.

I’ve been waiting… and waiting… for the summer issue of…

It is normally available mid-June, but understandably late at it is assembled and published in the COVID-19 epicenter of New York City. There is no lack of things to read in the world, and I’ve been pursuing some clues from L.Q. emails.

One such recent missive said:
“Here we delve into the reading habits of some of our favorite contributors. Explore our series of reading lists and learn what books these authors gravitated to.”

The content about each author is lengthy, informative, and excellent reads in their own right. If you explore these links you will remain occupied for awhile. A few L.Q.’s suggestions:

“Frederick Douglass

The orator and abolitionist visits the birthplace of Robert Burns and remembers the first book he ever read: “These were choice documents to me.”

Read our Frederick Douglass reading list”

[Charles Dickens is mentioned in this list. As I will note later, he has a lengthy list of classics from which to choose.]

Walt Whitman, by Thomas Wilmer Dewing, 1875. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Robert Tyler Davis Memorial Fund. (Source- L.Q. website)

“Walt Whitman

If you can’t find this poet, try Coney Island, where he has been known to “declaim Homer or Shakespeare to the surf and seagulls by the hour.”

Read our Walt Whitman reading list”

Whitman notes: “I have amused myself with Kenelm Chillingly—read it all—like it well—Bulwer is such a snob as almost redeems snobdom—the story is good, & the style a master’s—Like Cervantes, Bulwer’s old-age-productions are incomparably his best.”

L.Q.: “Kenelm Chillingly was published in 1873, the year its author, Edward Bulwer Lytton, died. Although few remember Lord Lytton or his last novel, several of his ideas outlived him, if rarely packaged with his name. He came up with the phrases “The pen is mightier than the sword,” “pursuit of the almighty dollar,” and “the great unwashed.” He was not the first writer to start a novel with the line “It was a dark and stormy night,” although he was the person to make the line famous for being terrible, in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Lytton also wrote The Coming Race, a science fiction novel influential with theosophists (and maybe Nazis) about a subterranean master race that considers women superior to men.”

[Source- L.Q. email]
Whitman knew a thing or two about growing a beard, or not shaving.

He spoke admirably of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“If anybody cares to know what I think—and have long thought and avow’d—about them,” Whitman writes in Specimen Days, “I am entirely willing to propound. I can’t imagine any better luck befalling these States for a poetical beginning and initiation than has come from Emerson, Longfellow, Bryant, and Whittier. Emerson, to me, stands unmistakably at the head, but for the others I am at a loss where to give any precedence.”

Other notables in the recommended reading list:

Virginia Woolf

The writer reads Shakespeare when the weather is bad and she’s depressed, and Chaucer when she’s “warm and happy.” Cookbooks are, of course, always delightful to read.

Read our Virginia Woolf reading list

Sylvia Plath

The writer considers a “gooey ripe brie, a superbly moldy blue stilton & a fat round Wensleydale” while worrying that when it comes to The Idiot and Brothers Karamazov she might just “walk around carrying the much-underlined books in a small satchel and quoting voluminously from them at the slightest provocation.”

Read our Sylvia Plath reading list

Flannery O’Connor

The novelist throws away Ayn Rand, smells a new issue of National Geographic, and gobbles up Henry James: “When I read James I feel like something is happening to me, in slow motion but happening nevertheless.”

Read our Flannery O’Connor reading list

[Oh no, not Ayn Rand!]

“If you come across a copy of The Fountainhead, Flannery offers this method of disposal, which she shared with playwright Maryat Lee in a May 1960 letter:

I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.”

As one who has read a bit of Ayn Rand, hopefully with an ‘open mind’, I had to chuckle.

I keep threatening to start reading some of the nineteenth-century classics, of which I am as bereft and ignorant as of most things. Whether it was the Douglass list or some other recent reference, I turned to Wikipedia and the lengthy dissertation on Charles Dickens.

Dickens in New York, circa 1867–1868. Source- Wikipedia.

I found coincidence in the fact that his partner Ellen Ternan, later in life: “In 1876, six years after Dickens’s death, Ternan married George Wharton Robinson, an Oxford graduate, who was 12 years her junior and who knew nothing of her close association with Dickens. She presented herself as 14 years younger (23 years old rather than 37).” (Wikipedia)

Ellen Ternan, at age 19 in 1858. Source- Wikipedia.

I allude to Katherine Anne Porter, mentioned in EPIDEMIC preview 2 : “She married Eugene Pressly, a writer, in 1930. In 1938, upon returning from Europe, she divorced Pressly and married Albert Russel Erskine, Jr., a graduate student. He reportedly divorced her in 1942, after discovering her real age and that she was 20 years his senior.” (Wikipedia)

A few of Dickens’ better-known works, no doubt easily available at my local library or  are:

Oliver Twist
Nicholas Nickleby
Great Expectations
David Copperfield
Bleak House
A Tale of Two Cities
A Christmas Carol
The Pickwick Papers

If you have persevered to this point and are pursuing further investigation, I commend you and thank you for your kindness. Your work, or reading pleasure, is cut out for you. Let the games begin.

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.

7 thoughts on “Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC – preview 3

    1. Although these days you can find data to support anything, it is said there was a high literacy rate in the U.S. late-18th, early-19th century, thus the popularity of newspapers and publications such as the Federalist Papers. Keep READING, people!

      Liked by 1 person

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