April 5, 2020

Scratching Out Some Words

It is a grey and overcast today in Calgary,  with a temperature of minus 5 Celsius. This calls for not one, but perhaps two martinis tonight! Enough with the damn cold weather. The good news is that the weather in Alberta is keeping a lot of people indoors, which is where we should all be unless you’re one of the many wonderful  people on the front lines helping us fight and contain this crazy pandemic or part of industries that are deemed essential. Here’s a heartfelt shout out to you all:  THANK YOU!!!!

Sunday is a dedicated reading day at our house, an activity in which we take immense pleasure. The texts we pour over run the gamut from newspapers, back issues of magazines, and novels; art, political and economic histories; biographies, poetry, essays and criticism, and thrillers of every genre.  Texts are often read out loud to capture the cadence and rhythm of words, phrases, verses, sentences and the like. The most recent endeavor was the entirety of Homer’s Odyssey translated by the classicist Emily Wilson, which is brilliant.

Most of us spend too much time in front of our computers and our various devices. Many of us are reading from our I-Pads, Kindles, and I-Phones, etc.  I have a friend who reads everything on his phone, and has for years.  He even has a little reading stand for his phone. We also spend a lot of time looking for stuff on line using whatever our favorite search engines are: Google, Firefox, Bing, or DuckDuckGo, and down the rabbit hole we go. Hours are spent this way. And what about the information we are getting? Type in water, money, sex or medicine, and who knows what you’ll find and how accurate the information is. And that is the tip of the iceberg!

If you’re looking for a break from reading online and sifting through hundreds of entries about the subject you’re interested in, get a subscription to Lapham’s Quartely, a magazine I have enjoyed for years.  Lapham’s Quarterly is a literary magazine founded by the former publisher of Harper’s Magazine, Lewis L. Lapham, in 2007. Lapham had two motivations for establishing the magazine. He had been working on a project for the History Book Club:  “they wanted something at the end of the millennium and I developed this idea by looking at the way the end of the world has ended or been envisioned to end many times and how predictions of doom have been spread across time. Whether you are talking about the Book of Revelations or tenth century sects. So I had this wonderful collection of texts and thought what a great idea. Also it was fun.”Lapham was also thinking about the Internet and how people search it looking for information, and how time consuming and unreliable that information can be. Using his research and the texts he’d   found for this “end of the world project” as the platform, he founded the magazine.

Each issue is dedicated to one topic such as water, medicine, sex, or money; this quarter it’s the topic of scandal.  There are perspectives and observations about that topic written and presented by writers, philosophers and experts in the field dating back as far as 600 BCE to the present day. The texts are extensive and the various perspectives are appropriate to the times, and as Lapham originally intended and stated on the quarterly’s website: “ the magazine embodies the belief that history is the root of all education, scientific, literary as well as political and economic.”

It also a well-designed   magazine,   in a 10 x 7 inch format with good illustrations and reproduction of art works relevant to the presented topics. If you want to give your eyes and your brain a break from your devices and from websites and applications, I recommend getting a subscription to Lapham’s Quarterly via their online store, where you can purchase back issues. Every issue is a great read and it’s a wonderful resource to have around the house.  You will not be disappointed.

Yves Trépanier