How history and news can work together

This is an old post but I’m leaving it here for the hell of it. Failed links have been updated or removed.

I’m breaking my own rule. Until recently I’d sworn off subscribing to magazines because too often they pile up in a corner unread and mock me.

But I’ve decided to subscribe to Lapham’s Quarterly. Partly because it’s a quarterly and I reckon I can handle four issues a year. Partly because the magazine’s sturdy enough to hold its own on a bookshelf without needing the ugly support of a magazine holder.

But mostly because I love the concept of this magazine. It mixes current and historical writing on themes that are current in the news today. Each edition embraces a different issue.

The one I’ve read, from last year, was about Crimes and Punishments through the ages. Alongside current pieces from writers such as Christopher Hitchens and an interesting piece about piracy off the coast of Somalia and elsewhere by Matthew Power, there are excerpts from Herodotus, Thomas de Quincey, Raymond Chandler, Maximilien de Robespierre, Plato, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Albert Camus, Jack the Ripper and many more. They are brought to life further by a great range of quite graphic historic paintings and photographs.

The magazine’s like an ice core sample – a little slice from each epoch – that helps explain what’s happening today and reminds us that our issues aren’t all new. It’s context on a grand scale. History on a plate. I love it.