Lewis Lapham's new history and current events magazine getting very mixed reviews

Historians in the News

Talk about prestigious and prominent bylines: the table of contents of one new publication includes Thucydides, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Osama bin Laden, Pope Urban II, Lenin ...and Lewis H. Lapham.

Mr. Lapham, who edited Harper’s Magazine for nearly 30 years, retired from that job in 2006 only to start a new publication, Lapham’s Quarterly, which reached newsstands last month. Unlike Harper’s, which tackles a blend of topics each month, the new journal takes on a single subject — in the debut issue, war — and offers writings about it from ancient to modern times....

He acknowledged that the publication, which costs $15 an issue, would not appeal to a mass audience. But he said he was encouraged by the popularity of the History Channel and by sales of books like David McCullough’s biography of John Adams.

“The great rush of the electronic media tends to eliminate the past,” he said. “Everything is right now or 20 minutes from now, and this gives a sense of context and continuity. People like that.”

Apparently not all people. In The New Criterion, a conservative monthly journal, Roger Kimball, the editor, twice used the word “pretentiousness” in his assessment of the new magazine. He said Mr. Lapham’s “command of inconsequentiality has elicited comment for years.” Robert Wilson, editor of The American Scholar, found Lapham’s Quarterly “very smart” but said that because of the many contributors who were dead, “it feels a little like a museum.”

Samir A. Husni, the head of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi, said, “It’s not something that I would come back from work and say, ‘O.K., let me relax, have a glass of wine and read this magazine,’ which I would have done with Harper’s.” He added, “If you are interested in this topic, in those books, you have probably read them, you have probably spent time with them. And if you are not familiar with them, the presentation is not inviting.”

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Randll Reese Besch - 1/2/2008

From what I have assessed from the article the magazine doesn't want the likes of me reading it. The cost alone puts it in the relm of the academic or university, maybe libraries if they have the money. Outside of my price range. I would be interested in reading at least one issue to fully review if its body is firm and substantial in its scholarship and 'meat' of the topic covered.