Lapham on The Gulf of Time

The first issue of Lapham’s Quarterly is out. Lewis Lapham on the magazine and the first issue:


To bring at least some of the voices of the past up to the microphone of the present, Lapham’s Quarterly chooses a topic prominent in the news and, within the perimeter of that topic, assembles a set of relevant texts—literary narrative and philosophical commentary, diaries, speeches, letters, and proclamations, as well as essays and reviews by contemporary historians. The method assumes that all writing, whether scientific treatise, tabloid headline, or minimalist novel, is an attempt to tell a true story. Some stories are more complicated or more beautiful than others. Some stories are immortal, others incoherent. Homer told a story, and so did Albert Einstein; so do Jay Leno and Donald Duck. The stories that bear a second reading are true in the sense that the voice of the author emerges from the struggle to get at the truth of what he or she thinks, has seen, remembers, can find language to express. I know of no task more difficult, but it is the joint venture entered into by writer and reader—the writer’s labor turned to the wheel of the reader’s imagination—that produces the freedoms of mind from which a society gathers its common stores of energy and hope.

My sense of such an enterprise I gathered from a prolonged correspondence with the readers of Harper’s Magazine—people whom I never met and wouldn’t recognize if I came across them in an elevator or a police lineup.