Lapham's Quarterly

21 articles
Avatar_57x57

Reelin’ in the Years

Reconsidering Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando.

Avatar_57x57

Split Personalities

“Does a talent for comedy necessitate a tragic life?”

Avatar_57x57

My First Mistake

Adventures as a mortuary assistant.

Avatar_57x57

The Spoil of Mariners

The Arctic, sailors and scurvy.

Avatar_57x57

Last Meals

“It’s just like putting gas in a car that don’t have no motor.”

Avatar_57x57

Open Waters

Encounters with the sea.

Avatar_57x57

Around Alone

The story of 1968’s Golden Globe, a race to see who could become the first sailor to circumnavigate the world solo without stopping.

Avatar_57x57

Our Orgiastic Future

What the bountiful sex lives of bonobos—they enjoy deep kissing, oral sex, dry humping, and polyamory—can teach us about humanity.

Avatar_57x57

How to Be a Stuffed Animal

The history and meaning of taxidermy in American museums.

Avatar_57x57

Death in the Pot

A history of food poisoning.

Avatar_57x57

Healing Spirits

On the uneasy relationship between magic and medicine.

Avatar_57x57

The Oakling and the Oak

On “Poor Hartley,” the son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Avatar_57x57

Body Language

When we form our thoughts into speech, some of it leaks through our hands. Gestures are thoughts, ideas, speech acts made tangible in the air. They can even, for a moment, outlive the speaker.

What hand motions can teach us about language, ethnicity and assimilation.

Avatar_57x57

Native Tongues

The making of the “five-thousand-page, five-volume book, known formally as the Dictionary of American Regional English and colloquially just as DARE”:

What joking names do you have for an alarm clock? For a toothpick? For a container for kitchen scraps? Or an indoor toilet? Or women’s underwear? When a woman divides her hair into three strands and twists them together, you say she is_____her hair? What words do you have to describe people’s legs if they’re noticeably bent, or uneven, or not right? What do you call the mark on the skin where somebody has sucked it hard and brought blood to the surface?

Avatar_57x57

Stories to Live With

Coping with a brother’s suicide.

We tell stories about the dead in order that they may live, if not in body then at least in mind—the minds of those left behind. Although the dead couldn’t care less about these stories—all available evidence suggests the dead don’t care about much—it seems that if we tell them often enough, and listen carefully to the stories of others, our knowledge of the dead can deepen and grow. If we persist in this process, digging and sifting, we had better be prepared for hard truths; like rocks beneath the surface of a plowed field, they show themselves eventually.

Avatar_57x57

Trust Issues

Hartwick College didn’t really mean to annihilate the U.S. economy. A small liberal-arts school in the Catskills, Hartwick is the kind of sleepy institution that local worthies were in the habit of founding back in the 1790s; it counts a former ambassador to Belize among its more prominent alumni, and placidly reclines in its berth as the number-174-ranked liberal-arts college in the country. But along with charming buildings and a spring-fed lake, the college once possessed a rather more unusual feature: a slumbering giant of compound interest.
Avatar_57x57

Quack Prophet

A profile of Michel de Nostradame, better known as Nostradamus.

Avatar_57x57

Balanced Diets

On the history and study of pica:

Indeed, we have long defined ourselves and others by what we do and do not eat, from kashrut dietary restrictions described in Leviticus to the naming of Comanche bands (Kotsoteka—buffalo eaters, Penateka—honey eaters, Tekapwai—no meat) to insults—French frogs, English limeys, German krauts. But poya seemed to beg a different question: what was one to make of people who ate food that wasn’t food at all?

Avatar_57x57

Vanishing Act

In 1926, at the age of 12, Barbara Follett published a critically acclaimed novel. Fourteen years later, she disappeared.

Avatar_57x57

And Such Small Deer

A writer struggles to defend his arbor vitae trees from a pack of hungry deer—“an episode of great vexation and buffoonery.”

Avatar_57x57

Field of Dreams

The importance of the sports metaphor in the American consciousness and why Lewis Lapham didn’t join the C.I.A.