Joseph Epstein, in addition to his engaging short-stories and amusing essay collections, has parsed at book length such life staples as Snobbery (2002), Envy (2003), Friendship (2006), and Gossip (2011). In his latest of more than 30 books, Epstein puts charm under the microscope to our advantage.
Those familiar with Epstein’s work over the decades will doubtless agree there is no writer more qualified to strap on the matter of charm. He has, after all, given us some of the most charming writing of the last half century.
Joseph Epstein’s latest collection of essays, The Ideal of Culture, is an occasion for Epstein’s long-time readers — count me in this category — and an opportunity for those who’ve not yet had the pleasure. It has certainly been a pleasure for me reading Epstein’s stories and essays — these last run from newspaper column length to one-subject books. A pleasure because Epstein’s work is a rarely found combination of insights, humor, liveliness, and penetrating observations on the Vanity Fair we call life. This is likely why publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Atlantic, the Weekly Standard, the New Yorker, and, I’m pleased to add, The American Spectator, have published his work over the decades. The essays in Ideal first appeared in one or the other of this lineup between 2007 and just the other day.
Why spend money and reading time on two older gents kvetching in Where Were We? That’s easy. Because you’re unlikely to find more amusing kvetching anywhere in print than in this compendium of email correspondence between two men of letters, one in America, the other in England. It’s a follow-on of the equally entertaining, Distant Intimacy, published by Yale University Press in 2013 and still available.