Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lapham's Quarterly

"As for Laney, she was no sure proof of God, and her disappearance proves nothing about God, but God feels a little less present to me because she is no longer in the world. My soul feels a little more tired. Little maid, pray for me"

When Lewis Lapham announced it was time he launched a quarterly, I didn't exactly hold my breath in anticipation. I'd long been an admirer of his prosaic prowess, but by the time Bush Jr. was back in the kitchen, prepping to deliver another four years of material ripe for Lapham's eviscerations I was weary of reading it. Remember the smartest kid in your classroom? Not the one who got the best grades, but the one who could have, and chose not to? As much as I enjoyed hanging out with that kid -- a reciprocal indulgence, I'm sure -- that kid sure knew how to tire me out. Lapham was that kid.

Lapham's podium, Harper's Magazine, was in the monthly habit of persuading me of things I needed no persuasion to believe -- specifically, our collective situation is so much more dire than we think. I'm grateful when anyone of influence blows the whistle on their social tier, but when said whistle-blower is as high up the ladder as Lapham, my first monkey-thought is usually, "If I just scrabble up close to where he is, I can begin to work on the situation, too." I dropped my subscription because it was distracting me from what I needed to believe -- that I could, just possibly, attend and make small differences right now, where I already was. Now he was issuing a quarterly the size of a small phone book? I anticipated heaps of sniffy "Here's what's wrong" proclamations, and thought, No, thank you.

In fact, Lapham's Quarterly is well worth checking out. His editorial policy is surprisingly catholic in its inclusions, resulting in a collected read that gently nudges chambers of thought which might have become a little stiff over the years. I spent a couple of hours in the library, poring through past issues. When the quarterly finally devoted its contents to "Religion" I went ahead and bought it. Once again there is something for readers of every temperament and persuasion. Certainly there are pieces I can't be bothered with; there are also items I don't mind being challenged by. But the real surprise is stumbling across a piece that is actually encouraging -- in my case Garret Keizer's The Courtesy Of God. That's where the above quote comes from, and you can read the piece in its entirety here -- an invitation to which I could only say, Yes. Thank you.


paul bowman said...

Time doesn't allow, but I'd really love to read that Keizer article several times. — Both for what seems agreeable to me & what doesn't.

Wishing also that I could browse LQ a while. Had never heard of it, and healthily small-c catholic (ideally with a notable touch of the large-c) is exactly the thing, where I'm coming from.

Whisky Prajer said...

It's got a healthy dose of capital "C" content, too. If you find yourself near a large magazine rack you really should give it a look, if not pick it up. (Although the Anabaptist side of me is feeling neglected.)