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This issue's miscellany.


❖ This issue completes the first volume of The Lamp. We are both awed and humbled by the generosity of our readers, who took a chance on a small magazine during what turned out to be the worst imaginable year for a venture of this kind. We would like once again to thank those of you who donated to our initial GoFundMe campaign, especially Ryan Hammill, the inaugural member of our Leonine Circle, and our single most generous individual supporter. Currently we are in the process of securing long-term support for what has hitherto been a voluntary undertaking. We ask anyone interested in helping us to secure our future to contact the publisher or the editor.

❖ We were recently reminded of the phrase “non-overlapping magisteria,” which the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould used to describe the relationship between natural science and revelation. It is a memorable description of a view that is ultimately untenable. It is also a perfect illustration of how many Catholics understand political economy and the teachings of the popes. The distinguished Thomist Father Herbert McCabe, for example, believed that just as Darwinism had superseded natural history, so too had the science of Marxism obviated modern Catholic social teaching. In the United States, a group of so-called “Whig” Thomists have made largely the same argument but in reverse. The whole thing was summed up rather dreadfully some years ago when Pope Benedict XVI issued Caritas in veritate in 2009. A well-known magazine columnist and hagiographer willed into existence his view that portions of the encyclical to which he could not assent were the work of some sinister coterie, a view he summarized by suggesting that certain passages were written in gold ink, others in red.

❖ Artificial intelligence update: Gmail still does not know that (unless you are talking about The Who) it is spelled “all right,” not “alright.”

❖ In 2021 scientists have named a number of species, including a rather cryptic bumblebee called Bombus incognitus, a marsupial frog, and a jade-shelled predatory centipede in the upper reaches of the Shirase River in Japan. The Natural History Museum in London has announced that a snake dubbed Platyceps josephi (“Joseph’s racer”) was identified by means of comparison with Victorian paintings. A trap-jaw ant in the Chocó region of Ecuador, meanwhile, has been given the name Strumigenys ayersthey, the first example of an English pronoun doing double service as a gender-neutral Latin suffix in a scientific binomial.

With all the talk last year of “rewilding” under lockdown conditions, we wonder whether any truly surprising beasts have come out of their thickets and closer to human settlements. We envision any number of possibilities. Perhaps the recently repopulated streets and byways will be found to have played court to interlopers rich, strange, and here to stay—a previously unknown mountain cat of enormous size, say, or a tiny amphibian with peculiarly vivid colors. Whatever is discovered, we hope it is kept free from cruel zoo enclosures and bad nomenclature alike.

❖ This year THE LAMP is sponsoring a Christmas ghost story competition in the spirit of Dickens, Jerome K. Jerome, and M.R. James. When we say “in the spirit of,” we do not have in mind wan pseudo-Edwardian pastiches of James and others; we mean stories that “succeed in causing their readers to feel pleasantly uncomfortable when walking along a solitary road at nightfall, or sitting over a dying fire in the small hours,” stories with contemporary or near-contemporary settings that achieve effects similar to those sought by the genre’s masters.

The winner of this year’s competition will receive one thousand dollars and publication in the Christmas number of the magazine. Two runners-up will receive three hundred dollars each and online publication in Christmastide.

The rules are as follows:

i. The contest is open to all writers aged eighteen and older. With the exception of THE LAMP editor, the judges will not be aware of the identities of the authors before assessing each entry; they will examine entries “blind,” without prejudice to previous publications, background, etc.

ii. The prize is for stories no longer than ten thousand words. There is no minimum length.

iii. Stories, while obviously intended to be frightening, must not contain obscene or indecent material.

iv. Stories must involve the supernatural, however sensitively portrayed or faintly suggested.

v. Stories must be written in English.

vi. Stories must be original, which is to say, they must not have been published previously, either in print or in any public online forum.

vii. “Simultaneous submissions” are not permitted.

viii. Only one story per entrant is allowed.

ix. Entries may be submitted either by email to (.doc, .docx, or .rtf only: .PDF attachments will not be read) or by mail to P.O. Box 219, Three Rivers, Michigan, 49093. Postal entries should include a self-addressed stamped envelope and a separate piece of paper with the writer’s email address and phone number. Biographical information limited to a single sentence should be contained in a separate document.

x. Entries should be formatted in Times New Roman. Do not include tab stops, indents, headers, footers, or page numbers. A title will suffice. Epigraphs are also permitted.

xi. Online submissions must be sent by midnight on October 1, 2021 in order to be eligible; those sent by mail must be postmarked by October 1, 2021.

xii. Both the winner and the two runners-up will be notified at a date to be announced later. No other editorial correspondence related to the contest will take place.

❖ Speaking of competitions, we will offer a year’s subscription to any reader who can share a baseball statistic dumber than this one: “Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., is the first son of a five-time All-Star to lead M.L.B. outright in home runs at the end of any day in M.L.B. history.” 

❖ We hope readers enjoyed our recent online event sponsored by the Institute for Human Ecology, whose support we continue to welcome.

❖ May marked thirty years since the murder by gunshot of Ioan Petru Culianu. A Romanian scholar of religion mentored by Mircea Eliade, Culianu had published scholarly work mainly concerned with Gnosticism, the occult, and eros. The shooting took place just past noon on the University of Chicago’s campus in a basement bathroom of the Divinity School. The case remains unsolved, though the assassin is usually presumed to have been a professional in the employ either of the Romanian far left or far right. Culianu was a controversial, charismatic figure: he frequented New Age bookstores, played at Tarot cards with his students, and signed in blood an ersatz magical marriage pact with his wife. Under these circumstances, as Umberto Eco remarked, his death quickly became more myth than event. On the tricennial of his passing, nevertheless, we note that professors of religion need prayers too. Requiem aeternam dona Ioan, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat ei.

❖ In a recent conversation we were lucky to catch wind of, some friends of the magazine observed that just as so-called “gender reveal” parties became commonplace at almost exactly the same time the ideology which the Holy Father has called more dangerous than nuclear weapons came to prominence, so too did the meretricious wedding industry begin to assume its current excesses as rates of divorce increased; helicopter parenting, too, emerged as birth rates declined.

❖ Neophyte book-buyers looking for an introduction to the topic will learn best by doing; but for those who want to read up on the topic, herewith are some suggestions:

  • Libraries catalog the information about editions, printings, dates, publishers, etc. better than most booksellers do. Consult a library website, or a library comparison site such as WorldCat, to distinguish between different editions of the book you are looking for.
  • Always compare prices and availability across different sites. Start with AbeBooks and Amazon, but do not neglect to check eBay, Biblio, and others. Shopping in person at your local used bookstore, of course, is best of all.
  • Visit the used bookshops in any new town you pass through; the books they sell will reflect the interests of the readers locally. This is especially important in university towns. Talk to the proprietor.
  • Wherever possible, buy a copy that comes with a mylar protective covering.
  • Wherever possible, buy from the smaller, independent shops. They offer better service, know their own inventory better, and deserve your money more. Ask them for pictures.
  • Wherever possible, buy multi-volume sets together.
  • Don’t listen to that nagging voice (be it real or in your head) that tells you not to buy more books when you haven’t read the ones you already own.

❖ Sorry (as we have told our children on occasion), but it’s too late for a story.

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