Culture Essays

Culture Essays-63
I can't recall when this last happened, but I kissed the book right after I finished reading it.

I can't recall when this last happened, but I kissed the book right after I finished reading it.

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And isn’t that ultimately the goal of literary criticism?

As a reader I’ve long held the view that the highest compliment you can pay an author is to turn the last page and think, “I wish I had written that.” In this case, however, I thought, “Oh how I wish he had been one of my professors all those years ago.” At the very least I would have read Proust by now. And perhaps that, in the end, is the highest compliment I can pay this book.

The best parts of the book for me were the beginning and the end.

In the former he addresses a wide array of issues dealing loosely with culture, while in the latter he offers insight on what it means to be old in the 21st century.

His knowledge of literature will be greater than the vast majority of readers but he never bludgeons you with it.

He has opinions and he voices them, and some thinner-skinned readers may be put off by his blunt rejection of identity politics, political correctness, and Sigmund Freud (not necessarily in that order).Toward the end of the book, a friend of Mr Epstein's, upon learning he's reading (yet another) book on the Roman Republic, encapsulates what I already know of the fellow, having amassed and read almost all of his books of essays: "you don't read any crappy books, do you? Yes, indeedy--the kind I will try to emulate, after I'm done reading my share of crappy books, after a good sifting, and ditching the crappier titles from the merely crappy. After all, once upon a prehistoric youth, the guy read "A Stone for Danny Fisher." Bet you like me, he shed a tear or two, too. Epstein's collection of essays is worth the read for three reasons:1.Readers will be able to discover the names of significant people in history of whom they have no knowledge, whatsoever.Both write superior prose (Dalry Readers I have admired have admired Joseph Epstein.Epstein is something like an American version of Theodore Dalrymple (in fact, you can read Dalrymple on Epstein here). Axios Press does better for Epstein than Dalrymple’s publishers do for him, but I find myself penciling in typographical corrections in either case.Readers I have admired have admired Joseph Epstein.Ten years ago I tried and failed to appreciate a collection of his essays titled In a Cardboard Belt!hence, a run to the library will be in order and/or new requests for Christmas or birthday presents.2.New examples of the author's wit and overall curiosity about what has made the world as it is today.3.It comes off as more curmudgeonly than mean-spirited, however, and I’ve found, in my own case as well, that age will do that to you. Epstein does adhere to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s admonishment to authors to “murder their darlings,” but he does retain the upbeat cadence and imagery of a good turn of phrase. But I learned a lot, both about the man and the subjects he writes about.If you’re a fan of good writing, as I am, you won’t find any better. Perhaps most importantly, I gained some insight into how to be a better reader and to be less intimidated by the world of great literature.


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