[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 April/May 2022:Migration, except where noted.]
[Click or right-click on an image 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.]
Yes, it has been nine and one-half months since this QUARTERLY published as issue. COVID Pandemic Interruptus. They plan to publish bi-monthly for awhile (every two months, as shown on the cover) and eventually be back on seasonal quarterly schedule starting April 2023. Fingers crossed.
The three sections of Voices In Time this issue are Setting Forth, On The Move, and Finding Refuge. Twenty-five extracts and and three complete, contemporary essays are free online.
Speaking of jumping right in, while browsing the Contents I did peruse a few extracts in advance of my usual sequential reading. In 1805 Meriwether Lewis prepares to set off on his Northwest expedition:
“Our vessels consisted of six small canoes and two large pirogues. This little fleet, although not quite so respectable as those of Columbus or Captain Cook, were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs, and I daresay with quite as much anxiety for their safety and preservation. We were now about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civilized man had never trodden. The good or evil it had in store for us was for experiment yet to determine, and these little vessels contained every article by which we were to expect to subsist or defend ourselves.” (p. 16)
Seafaring novelist Joseph Conrad (as was Melville) relates his real-life experience of sitting for a master mariner certificate. He was of Russian/Ukrainian/Polish descent, borders being what they were at the time, who eventually became a naturalized British citizen and wrote his fiction in English. I’ve read Heart of Darkness (the loose basis for the epic movie Apocalypse Now) and The Secret Agent, both fairly short and easy. The well-known Lord Jim looks intriguing.
One thing I like about reading Lapham’s Quarterly is the side-reading, looking for further info on authors or events. I usually do this on Wikipedia, which is always to be taken with a small grain of salt, as perhaps all reading should be ‘critical’ reading, but it’s a thorough, reliable, readily accessible reference source to which I donate annually. Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski has a very lengthy Wiki Page, well worth a deep-dive or at least a thorough browse.
Wikipedia can be an endless ‘six degrees of separation’. It says as a youth Conrad read Victor Hugo’s (Les Miserable author) Toilers Of The Sea, which looks like yet another intriguing read. He also read Leopold McClintock’s ‘book about his 1857–59 expeditions in the Fox, in search of Sir John Franklin‘s lost ships Erebus and Terror‘ (Wiki), so off I went for a quick look at McClintock. I had seen the excellent AMC TV series The Terror a few years ago, starring Irish actor Ciarán Hinds (who appeared in the recent Oscar nominated movie Belfast), so my interest was piqued. I don’t chase EVERY link I find, but the relationships can be fascinating and informative.
Speaking of Captain Cook, as did Meriwether Lewis, I jumped to James Cook’s short extract in which he marvels at the broad spread of common language across the Pacific.
I also took a look at John Steinbeck’s piece from Grapes of Wrath, in which he traces the USA’s good ‘ol Route 66:
“66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership, from the desert’s slow northward invasion, from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from the floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there. From all of these the people are in flight, and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads. 66 is the mother road, the road of flight.” (p. 97)
Who else is in this issue? Sometimes it seems like everybody. I see Richard Dawkins, he of the wry insights, “and suggests that the existence of God should be treated as a scientific hypothesis like any other…’ (Wiki), and coiner of that term ‘meme’, now the bane of our existence.
There is Rachel Carson, Malcom X and Alex Haley, together (Hmm), Woody Guthrie, Annie Dillard and Hannah Arendt (separately, but together the perennial fawnings of the literati, whom I will never remotely resemble), and Jacob Riis of the wonderful but seemingly interminable, though not that long, How The Other Half Lives, which I really must finish reading someday. It has inspired me to visit the Tenement Museum in New York City later this summer.
I had better get to it.
As always, the first extract, as I call them, is contemporary. New Yorker Sonia Shaw, daughter of Indian immigrants, talks about ‘Why People Move’. (Following the food, migratory herds, for starters, perhaps.)
Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson comments on the migration of black people from the South to the North, in her case Chicago.
“The white Southerners swore they wouldn’t stay because they wouldn’t be able to take the cold weather and the big city jobs. But they were wrong about that just the way they’ve been wrong about everything else they ever said about the Negro.” (p. 19)
Chaucer proposed a competition of tales while traveling to and from Canterbury:
“When April comes and with its showers sweet
Has, to the root, pierced March’s drought complete,
And then bathed every vein in such elixir
That, by its strength, engendered is the flower;”
(p. 20) (Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Selected Canterbury Tales. Translated by Sheila Fisher. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Copyright © 2011 by Sheila Fisher.)
Or, if you prefer:
The Middle English text is from Larry D. Benson., Gen. ed., The Riverside Chaucer,
Houghton-Mifflin Company; used with permission of the publisher. (Harvard.)
1 Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
When April with its sweet-smelling showers
2 The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
Has pierced the drought of March to the root,
3 And bathed every veyne in swich licour
And bathed every vein (of the plants) in such liquid
4 Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
By which power the flower is created;
C. 1390A.D., he had a way with words.
An extract from Exodus, the second book of the Pentateuch/Torah and Christian Bible Old Testament, relates the parting of the sea by Moses and the destruction of the Egyptians chasing the Israelites.
Annie Dillard, from her Pulitzer Prize-winning Pilgrim at Tinkers Creek, poetically describes the migration of monarch butterflies:
“The monarchs clattered in the air, burnished like throngs of pennies, here’s one, and more, and more. They flapped and floundered; they thrust, splitting the air like the keels of canoes, quickened and fleet. It looked as though the leaves of the autumn forest had taken flight and were pouring down the valley like a waterfall, like a tidal wave, all the leaves of hardwoods from here to Hudson Bay.” (p. 34)
On the very next page from Equiano is a side-quote that piqued my interest:
“Let us leave this Europe which never stops talking of Man yet massacres him at every one of its street corners, at every corner of the world.“
—Frantz Fanon, 1961 (p. 38) To this day, in 2022, how sadly true.
Not having heard of him, I’m off to Wikipedia again. Fanon was a French West Indian from the Caribbean French colony (now Department) of Martinique. He was an anti-colonialist, often commenting on the role of violence in change. Hmm.
Sadly, again, Henry Morgenthau Sr’s 1916 piece on the WWI Armenian genocide by Turkey (free online), still not admitted to even now, led me to a lengthy browse on Wikipedia to Talaat Pasha, Armenia, said genocide, and Mr. Morgenthau, back and forth, all around. Not a pretty picture.
As I mentioned to a friend some years ago, Lapham’s Quarterly would be a great resource for a studies class. ‘Read this extract from Morgenthau, give me a summary of the Armenian genocide, and an overview of Turkey’s involvement in WWI. Most importantly, tell me what you think of it.’ Lots of room for discussion. Good for high school, college, or any discussion group. It is SO easy to research now. Does anyone remember when you had to go to a LIBRARY, and use the Dewey Decimal System to find BOOKS on a subject, then somehow extract somewhat relevant information for your class essay topic? I’m still astounded when I think that writers, before computers or even typewriters, wrote everything LONGHAND. The volume alone of some prolific writers. Charles Dickens bibliography, for example. It’s mind-boggling. But I digress.
Obviously, one motivation for Setting Forth is either being force-marched or chased from one place to another. Ukraine is only the most recent example. It has been happening for decade upon decade in the Middle East and Africa, to name but a few. We are a horrible species. Hopefully L.Q. will get a little more upbeat before the end of this section.
Elizabeth Kolbert reports on experiments monitoring modern day climate change by observing whether trees move up or down in elevation due to changes in average temperature. (They do! Some of them fairly quickly! Schefflera in particular.)(Individual trees don’t move, of course, but their growth range does.)
“We are now not just monkeying around with natural processes,” she said in an interview. “We are now trying to change the natural world to counteract the ways that we’re changing the natural world.” (P. 60)
Hmm. Well said.
Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy, of which the famous Inferno is a part, leads me off on another Wikipedia chase. The lengthy Commedia, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (!), is available at Project Gutenberg. Dante pioneered the use of standard Italian language in literature:
“He wrote the Comedy in a language he called “Italian”, in some sense an amalgamated literary language mostly based on the regional dialect of Tuscany, but with some elements of Latin and other regional dialects. He deliberately aimed to reach a readership throughout Italy including laymen, clergymen and other poets. By creating a poem of epic structure and philosophic purpose, he established that the Italian language was suitable for the highest sort of expression. In French, Italian is sometimes nicknamed la langue de Dante. Publishing in the vernacular language marked Dante as one of the first in Roman Catholic Western Europe (among others such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Giovanni Boccaccio) to break free from standards of publishing in only Latin (the language of liturgy, history and scholarship in general, but often also of lyric poetry). This break set a precedent and allowed more literature to be published for a wider audience, setting the stage for greater levels of literacy in the future.” (Wikipedia.)
Time marches on, as does Migration. Next up, On The Move.
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.