Saturday, March 30, 2013

Quote of the Week

"I have every reason to believe that I am a physical coward, a bourgeois mandarin repelled and frightened by violence. Yet I know that if danger threatened my dog, if anyone offered him hurt, my rage, my impulse to interpose could turn homicidal. If torturers set about my wife or children, I would cry out to them to hold fast and strive to do so myself. Were they to beat my dog or put out his eyes, I would break immediately, betraying all. These are comely truths. They defy reason and what should be the hierarchies of human love. They raise questions as to primordial instabilities, as to the survival of the zoological affinities and twilight that subvert our fragile humanity. They are truths nevertheless. Shared, I suspect, by many more of us than is openly admitted. Odysseus bids adieu to Penelope not long after his epic homecoming. Would he have left Ithaca had his dog Argos lived?"
--an excerpt from My Unwritten Books by George Steiner, included in the newest issue of Lapham's Quarterly. The topic is 'animals'. I have trouble committing to works of literary fiction (and nonfiction); they tend to be too long, are often homogeneous and linear, and the massive selection of options makes choosing difficult (and regret frequent). Lapham's Quarterly solves these problems by excerpting small essays from a wide variety of writers, limiting each issue to around 200 pages every three months. By tightly sticking to a theme and sprinkling quotes, visual art, and amusing data analysis throughout the pages, it's truly a rewarding and digestible way to expose oneself to the classical humanities.

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