[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
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[L.Q. cover, quotes, and images from Lapham’s Quarterly Summer 2020: EPIDEMIC, except where noted.]
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[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 of early September I am still waiting… and waiting… for the SUMMER issue of…
As noted in Preview 3, having a dearth of knowledge and experience with nineteenth century English literature, I recently turned to Wikipedia and the lengthy dissertation on Charles Dickens.
A few of Dickens’ better-known works, no doubt easily available at my local library or gutenberg.org are:
|A Tale of Two Cities|
|A Christmas Carol|
|The Pickwick Papers|
I seriously doubt I will read many, but does it matter which I read first, or in what order? Probably not, but I found this recommendation:
A Christmas Carol
David Copperfield (the most autobiographical, it is said)
A Tale of Two Cities (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”)
Nearly EVERYONE, in the Indo-European, anglo-lingual, Christian-centric world, at least, has heard of A Christmas Carol. How many have read the original? A much smaller percentage, I wager.
Ebenezer Scrooge, the man who is the epitome of unkind, miserly, penny-pinching, narrow-minded focus on wealth, is visited Christmas Eve night by three ghosts who show him his own dismal life, past, present, and future. It isn’t pretty.
Despite it being summer and not ‘the season to be jolly’, it’s a short read (144 pages in one hardcover edition) and I subsumed it in my daily activity. It’s superb and starts with hilarious insight on a door-nail:
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”
Dickens ends with words to the wise, RE: Scrooge:
“He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”
Wikipedia notes the legacy of A Christmas Carol:
“The phrase “Merry Christmas” had been around for many years – the earliest known written use was in a letter in 1534 – but Dickens’s use of the phrase in A Christmas Carol popularised it among the Victorian public. The exclamation “Bah! Humbug!” entered popular use in the English language as a retort to anything sentimental or overly festive; the name “Scrooge” became used as a designation for a miser, and was added to the Oxford English Dictionary as such in 1982.”
David Copperfield is up next. It’s a much longer work, 600 to 1000 pages, depending on the format. Onward.
If you have made it this far and are pursuing further investigation, thank you for your kindness.
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.