[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.]
[I just discovered I haven’t completed and published my final, superficial comments on Friendship. I’m no less tardy than Lapham’s Quarterly, I suppose, who hasn’t published the Summer Issue yet, which normally comes out mid-June, and even with the altered, pandemic-related supply problems, is late for its mid-October publication. I really hope they don’t stop publication. I would hate to have to find another causa vivendi/raison d’être, though I’m sure something would come up. Even now I’m reading something besides L.Q., though it is referenced in the Friendship issue: Klara and the Sun, by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, newly published this year, dystopian sci-fi about AFs, Artificial Friends (aren’t they all). 😉 I’ve enjoyed it and finished it.]
As long as the link is available, the Table of Contents can be found, or a sampling of extracts can be found at Voices In Time online. The three sections of Voices In Time this issue are Assets, Liabilities, and Equity. Seven of the twenty-nine extracts in Equity are free online. A paucity.
Equity. Even keel. Balanced. True friendships that give as much as they get. I suspect friendships were more valued in previous centuries than they are now. Sure, people may have lots of friends these days, but how many are really close, ‘bosom buddies’, confidants. Perhaps long ago when marriage was more of an arrangement, a duty, a ‘contract’, was it easier to be good friends, often with a member of the same sex? Are our good friends even today more likely members of the same sex, lest physical attraction rear its head. So many questions. That’s why we inquire. Our natural curiosity perhaps.
Cicero, 60 BC, ponders, pines, and longs for his distant friend Atticus:
“I must tell you that what I most badly need at the present time is a confidant—someone with whom I could share all that gives me any anxiety, a wise, affectionate friend to whom I could talk without pretense or evasion or concealment.”
“And you whose talk and advice has so often lightened my worry and vexation of spirit, the partner in my public life and intimate of all my private concerns, the sharer of all my talk and plans, where are you?”
“I go down to the Forum surrounded by droves of friends, but in all the multitude, I cannot find one with whom I can pass an unguarded joke or fetch a private sigh.”
“As for the state, I am ready enough to do my part, but time and again the medicine itself injures the patient.” (P. 145)
Michel de Montaigne, ‘the father of modern essays’, similarly laments the loss of his good friend Étienne de La Boétie:
“I had grown so accustomed to be his second self in everything that now I seem to be no more than half a man. There is no action or thought of mine in which I do not miss him, as he would have missed me. For just as he in- finitely surpassed me in every other talent and virtue, so did he also in the duties of friendship.” (p. 148)
Vera Brittain speaks of the psychic connections that sometimes develop between good friends:
“After a year or two of constant compan- ionship, our response to each other’s needs and emotions had become so instinctive that in our correspondence, one of us often replied to some statement or request made by the other before the letter which contained it had arrived.” (p. 149)
Mark Twain spoke of this in the L.Q. Winter 2021: Technology issue:
He wanes less electric than usual, but still like Twain, postulating on the psychic connection of 19th century letter writers, and how one delays writing a friend, only to eventually receive a letter answering all those withheld questions.
“We are always talking about letters “crossing” each other, for that is one of the very commonest accidents of this life. We call it “accident,” but perhaps we misname it. We have the instinct a dozen times a year that the letter we are writing is going to “cross” the other person’s letter;” (p. 115) Free.
Twain is in this issue also, lazily drifting on the Mississippi River in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I’m surprised, in the current climate of cancel culture, uber-political correctness, that Finn isn’t banned in schools again. The author notes state:
“Shortly after its publication, the book was banned by the Concord Free Public Library in Massachusetts, with one committee member calling it “trash of the veriest sort.” Within days, news of the ban had spread across the country. “If Mr. Clemens cannot think of something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses,” said Louisa May Alcott, “he had best stop writing for them.” The book sold 51,000 copies within three months. Twain remarked that it was a “generous action” of the library to “have condemned and excommunicated my last book and doubled its sale.”” (p. 157)
For example: “…Jim he grabbed me and hugged me, he was so glad to see me. He says, “Laws bless you, chile, I ’uz right down sho’ you’s dead agin. Jack’s been heah, he say he reck’n you’s ben shot, kase you didn’ come home no mo’; so I’s jes’ dis minute a startin’ de raf ’ down toward de mouf er de crick, so’s to be all ready for to shove out en leave soon as Jack comes agin en tells me for certain you is dead.” (p. 155)
A side-quote: “True friendship withstands time, distance, and silence.” —Isabel Allende, 2000. To wit, I once reconnected with a good friend who I’d lost contact with for thirty years. As we fell into comfortable conversation he remarked, to the effect, that it was like only a short time has passed since we last saw each other. He became and remained a best friend again, until he passed away a few years ago. I don’t mourn or lament his absence, it’s just that the world is a little poorer without him. Such is friendship.
In 1847, American poet William Cullen Bryant briefly writes about a same-sex couple:
“If I were permitted to draw aside the veil of private life, I would briefly give you the singu- lar, and to me most interesting, history of two maiden ladies who dwell in this valley. I would tell you how in their youthful days, they took each other as companions for life, and how this union, no less sacred to them than the tie of marriage, has subsisted in uninterrupted harmony for forty years, during which they have shared each other’s occupations and pleasures and works of charity while in health and watched over each other tenderly in sickness, for sickness has made long and frequent visits to their dwelling.”
“…but I have already said more than I fear they will forgive me for if this should ever meet their eyes, and I must leave the subject.” (p. 181) Free online.
Alexander Pope is free online also with a poem about man’s best friend. Poignant.
The aforementioned Kazuo Ishiguro is in this section on Equity. Not free
“I saw through that gap, on the far sidewalk, a girl of fourteen, wearing a cartoon shirt, walking in the direction of the crossing. She was without adults or an AF but seemed confident and a little impatient…”
“Then the gap between the taxis grew wider still, and I saw she was with an AF after all—a boy AF—who was walking three paces behind. And I could see, even in that small instant, that he hadn’t lagged behind by chance; that this was how the girl had decided they would always walk—she in front and he a few steps behind. The boy AF had accepted this, even though other passersby would see and conclude he wasn’t loved by the girl. And I could see the weariness in the boy AF’s walk and wondered what it might be like to have found a home and yet to know that your child didn’t want you. Until I saw this pair it hadn’t occurred to me an AF could be with a child who despised him and wanted him gone, and that they could nevertheless carry on together.” (p. 189)
Thomas Jefferson concludes the section with a somewhat romantic missive to a good friend and married woman. Free online.
There is only one full essay this issue. Free online.
Be friendly to one another.
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.