Lewis Lapham at City Lights

In the Lapham of Luxury. His Eminence graced us with 90 minutes of his time in the cramped quarters of the poetry section, 2nd floor at City Lights. Surrounded by the spirts of the Beats, watching the startling sight of the sun reflecting against a nearby tower after days upon days of rain, soothed by the deep resonate tones of Lapham’s clear intellect. He read from the current Lapham’s Quarterly, a piece by “Ed Dante”, a necessary pseudonym for a person whose job it is to write admissions essays and masters theses and anything a student might desire, on demand. After an intrepid audience member suggested that she didn’t understand the connection of the psuedonym to the work, we collectively figured the name was a play on both Dante Alighieri (obvious) and Edward Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo. After waxing a bit on the state of education, he opened the field for questions, and we the audience were ready.
Topics covered:
* Education is being treated like taxidermy– just stuff a dead thing and pretend it’s alive
* Unions and the general disregard of the middle class for them
* Reagan, ushering in the 1980s as the beginning of the end, he wanted to make “everyone” rich.
* The distinction between today’s polarizing Right and Left boils down to “Money” vs. “Mind”
* Literature has always only appealed to a small segment of the population, this has not changed. Lapham in conversation with the owner of Barnes & Noble, notes that he said “literature has always been a loss-leader for us.”
* Plagiarism. Writers have always borrowed from each other. What you write is influenced by what you read.
* What Lapham evaluates a piece on: voice. If it sounds like a human, he will consider continuing the conversation.
* The Right wing believes that to be poor today means that God is punishing you.
* All of learning is self-motivated
* Secret to longevity: curiosity and learning
* Politicians and the elite have no interest in educating the masses– give them Bread & Circuses to distract them.
I was surprised (saddened?) that when I mentioned I was going to this event to a couple of people, they had no idea who Lapham was. Oh, my heathen friends, just dial up your iPhone and keep playing with the latest App. We will outlive you all!