[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 are from Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2021: Friendship, except where noted.]
[Click or 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 those who might stumble in looking for photography. My edits/summaries of the L.Q. historical journal continue. Spoiler Alert: Opinions may be expressed.]
Friendship is here!
Notification of digital copy arrived 4 August. Print cannot be far behind, I trust. (Not yet, as of 17 Aug.) Lapham’s has been considerably tardy in publishing during the COVID19 pandemic. Supply issues with the high quality paper on which it is printed, allegedly. Winter 2021 arrived in mid- late-March, when Spring issues usually arrive. Now, nearly five months later, Spring is arriving. Summer should have arrived mid-June. The seasons will never be the same. Still, L.Q. continues to solicit future subscriptions and ‘deals’ on past issues. I’ve long suspected that my meager $12.25-14.75 USD per issue (print or print+digital) didn’t generate a profit, as L.Q. appears to rely on the generous philanthropy of numerous donors, to which I am not opposed. Don’t stop publishing!
I digress. Soapboxes are very small these days.
As long as the link is available, the Table of Contents can be found.
A sampling of extracts can be found at Voices In Time online.
What’s in a browse?
The three sections of Voices In Time this issue are Assets, Liabilities, and Equity, with a total of 86 extracts, more than the usual 75 or so. An economic slant, that we should measure the worth of our friendships?
Some authors present that I recognize:
Prose (Francine, Associate Editor at Lapham’s, author of this Preamble and at least one other.)
Ben Jonson, Flaubert, Aristotle, Alexis De Tocqueville, Nelson Mandela, Arthur Conan Doyle (Sir), C.S. Lewis, Emily Dickinson, Francis Bacon (Sir), Herman Melville, Seneca, Simone de Beauvoir…
…to name but a few, and those just from Section One.
Side-quotes, scattered throughout, are always food for thought:
Under the magnetism of friendship, the modest man becomes bold, the shy confident, the lazy active, or the impetuous prudent and peaceful.
—William Makepeace Thackeray, 1848
Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.
Be courteous to all but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.
—George Washington, 1783
Of my friends, I am the only one I have left.
—Terence, 161 bc
There is no wilderness like a life without friends. Friendship multiplies blessings and minimizes misfortunes; it is a uniquely remedy against adversity and it soothes the soul.
—Baltasar Gracián, 1647
There is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship.
—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943
If everyone knew what they all said about each other, there would not be four friends left in the world.
—Blaise Pascal, c. 1660
A friend that you have to buy won’t be worth what you pay for him—no matter how little that may be.
—George D. Prentice, 1860
What about that Preamble, available (FREE!) online. It is authored by prolific writer Francine Prose, not founder/editor Lewis Lapham, who appears to continue to step back from directly wielding the pen. She centers her discussion on primary points of friendship. The Preamble is titled THAT GUMMY JUNGLE.
Ms. Prose jumps right into a friendship analogy via the 1994 film Ed Wood, name-dropping director Tim Burton and actors Johnny Depp as Ed Wood and Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi. The film is a biographical tale of the real film director Wood, quite an eccentric, and his relationship with then ‘over-the-hill’ actor Bela Lugosi. Wood, alone, is worth a side research.
Francine sums the issue succinctly in a paragraph:
“This issue of Lapham’s Quarterly illuminates the mystery of friendship, a relationship that, potentially offering both pleasure and pain, sustenance and suffering, so closely resembles the mystery of love. The writers included here address the ways in which friendship can bring out our most and least admirable qualities and the way it allows us to demonstrate our unselfishness and nobility, or, conversely, our faithlessness, smallness, and cruelty. These writers consider the range and complexity of friendships, from the most inspiriting and enduring to the more fragile, unhelpful, and even poisonous.” (P. 14)
She further elocutes:
“Our ability to speak openly to a friend functions as a safety valve, beneficial to the heart even as the mind is sharpened by a friend’s understanding and sage advice. A friend can tell us what we need to hear, truths that might not have occurred to us on our own. Passing the victim of a disastrous, self-inflicted fashion choice, my daughter-in-law will sometimes whisper, “Doesn’t that person have any friends?” It’s the kind of remark that stays with you.” (P. 14)
“Friendship at its most elevated—unselfish, thoughtful, egalitarian—should ideally serve as the model for a larger social good, as a standard of how we, as a society, ought to treat one another. If we were to see every suffering as the suffering of a friend, every loss, every deprivation and injustice as something befalling a friend, wouldn’t that radically rearrange—and humanize—the social order? So far it hasn’t happened; likely we will never know.” (Emphasis mine —JH) (P. 15)
Now there is a transformative thought. See every suffering as the suffering of a friend, every bad thing as befalling a friend, humanize the social order! Yew, we can do this. We MUST do this.
The source of the title, if you can find it, is embedded in a single sentence of 271 words, in an extract by Deborah Eisenberg, a marvel in its own right:
“All along, Patty had been unaware that time is as adhesive as love, and that the more time you spend with someone, the greater the likelihood of finding yourself with a permanent sort of thing to deal with that people casually refer to as “friendship,” as if that were the end of the matter, when the truth is that even if “your friend” does something annoying, or if you and “your friend” decide that you hate each other, or if “your friend” moves away and you lose each other’s address, you still have a friendship, and although it can change shape, look different in different lights, become an embarrassment or an encumbrance or a sorrow, it can’t simply cease to have existed, no matter how far into the past it sinks, so attempts to disavow or destroy it will not merely constitute betrayals of friendship but, more practically, are bound to be fruitless, causing damage only to the humans involved rather than to that gummy jungle (friendship) in which those humans have entrapped themselves, so if sometime in the future you’re not going to want to have been a particular person’s friend, or if you’re not going to want to have had the particular friendship you and that person can make with each another, then don’t be friends with that person at all, don’t talk to that person, don’t go anywhere near that person, because as soon as you start to see something from that person’s point of view (which, inevitably, will be as soon as you stand next to that person), common ground is sure to slide under your feet.” (P. 102)
Ms. Prose offers several other insights into friendship:
“If Ed Wood is a paradigm of the positive benefits of friendship, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (both the book and the excellent film) gives us the opposite extreme. The homicidal poison released inside the twisted psyches of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock was an alchemical by-product of their friendship. They would never have murdered the Clutter family had they never met.
If friendship can bring us contentment and virtue, friendship can also function as a laboratory for the distillation of evil and ill will. Étienne de La Boétie’s description (Orléans, page 135) of the way in which wicked individuals form close alliances reminds us of the tyrants—Hitler, Stalin, any number of contemporary rulers—who surround themselves with greedy, malevolent courtiers who applaud their leader’s worst attributes and urge them on to commit ever more odious crimes: “There can be no friendship where there is cruelty, where there is disloyalty, where there is injustice. And in places where the wicked gather, there is conspiracy only, not companionship; these have no affection for one another; fear alone holds them together; they are not friends, they are merely accomplices.”
C.S. Lewis could be writing about Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, or about Hitler and Speer, Stalin and Beria, when he notes that the delights of meeting a kindred spirit are “no less delightful when we first met someone who shared with us a secret evil…Friendship (as the ancients saw) can be a school of virtue, but also (as they did not see) a school of vice. It is ambivalent. It makes good men better and bad men worse.” The danger, according to Lewis, lies in the way that friendship can make us blind and deaf to the world, convinced of the superiority of our insular circle—and of the inferiority of anyone who doesn’t belong, concluding, “Thus, like an aristocracy, it can create around it a vacuum across which no voice will carry.”” (P. 20)
Of course, the Preamble is a preview of the issue theme and the contents. By my count Ms. Prose makes 26 references to the main body of this issue. This leads me to conclude that she is familiar with at least 26 of the 75 or so extracts contained within, if not the entire issue. As page numbers of references are included, the issue must be complete before she reads it and writes her preamble, though the page numbers could be added prior to publication. My point is that the preamble author, notably Ms. Prose as much or more than other authors, has a good grasp of the issue.
This is a history journal. Will this be the history of Friendship? Has friendship changed over the millennia? I posit that Man’s humanity, and inhumanity, toward Friendship has not. Is it ever too late for a transformative idea? We shall see.
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.