Timothy Noah in Slate:
…I quoted and attempted to parse the signature Lapham sentence, which appeared in the following form in the May 1999 issue of Harper’s:
The swarm of cameras following Monica Lewinsky on her progress through a Washington airport or a New York restaurant wouldn’t have surprised the Roman mob familiar with the expensive claques traipsing after the magnificence of the Emperor Nero, their eager and well-fed sycophancy presumably equivalent to the breathless enthusiasms of Barbara Walters.
In essence, Lapham was rephrasing Ecclesiastes: All is vanity. There is nothing new under the sun. Western civilization to contemporary news cycle: Been there, done that. It’s not a particularly penetrating thought, which is why it always needs to be dressed up with windy invocations from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and the like. Anyway, Lapham has a new magazine called Lapham’s Quarterly, comprising nothing but writings ancient, contemporary, and in-between, juxtaposed for maximum “all is vanity” impact and arranged under thematic headings like “Calls to Arms” and “Post-Mortems.”