Synopses & Reviews
This delightful book of writer-to-writer correspondence joins a full shelf of volumes in the genre, yet it is perhaps the first set of such letters ever transacted via the Internet. Also unusual, at least for correspondents in the twenty-first century, is that Frederic Raphael and Joseph Epstein have never met, nor even spoken to each other. But what is most rare about this book is the authors' abundant talent for entertaining their readers, as much when the topic is grave as when it is droll.
Raphael and Epstein agree to embark on a year-long correspondence, but other rules are few. As the weeks progress, their friendship grows, and each inspires the other. Almost any topic, large or small, is considered: they write of schooling, parents, wives, children, literary tastes, enmities, delights, and beliefs. They discuss their professional lives as writers, their skills or want of them, respective experiences with editors, producers, and actors, and, in priceless passages scattered throughout the letters, they assess such celebrated figures as Gore Vidal, Christopher Hitchens, Susan Sontag, Annie Leibowitz, Malcolm Gladwell, Harold Bloom, George Steiner, Harold Pinter, Isaiah Berlin, George Weidenfeld, and Robert Gottlieb, among many others. Epstein and Raphael capture a year in their letters, but more, they invite us into an intimate world where literature, cinema, and art are keys to self-discovery and friendship.
"Claiming to be the first literary correspondence conducted via Internet, this wide-ranging volume comprises a year's worth of e-mails between novelist and Academy Award winning screenwriter Raphael (The Glittering Prizes), and American essayist and short story writer Epstein (Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit). Despite never having met in person or spoken on the phone, Raphael and Epstein embarked on this 'friendship electronique' at the start of 2009 expressly to publish the results. They let fly a fantastic range of creative insults as they log keen opinions on Susan Sontag, Edmund Wilson, Vladimir Nabokov, George Steiner, and seemingly every writer, critic, and publisher within memory's reach. 'There is...no memory for grievances quite equal to a writer's,' Raphael notes, and the book is sometimes overrun with anecdotes of past slights, bitter gossip, and moments of vanity often from Epstein's keyboard. Yet there is little conflict between the authors, who agree on nearly every point the other makes. They treat each other warmly, and with excruciating politeness. The two are at their best when delving into matters closest to heart: anti-Semitism in literature, the decline of good critics and the novel, wise commiserations on the state of the publishing industry, and reflections on long, successful careers." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A 'friendship electronique' at its best in delving into matters closest to heart: anti-Semitism in literature, the decline of good critics and the novel, wise commiserations on the state of the publishing industry, and reflections on long, successful careers.” - Publishers Weekly
"Raphael and Epstein may not prove that the art of correspondence as we know it will survive into the digital age, but they do prove that two writers who are insightful and witty in print can be equally insightful and witty online. A cause for hope, then." Matthew Walther, The Daily Beast
"Distant Intimacy 'crackles like a forest fire . . . . There is a terrific and welcome sense of clever men writing against the grain of their time. 'Boats against the current are the only kind I should choose to embark on,' Raphael advises his accomplice; 'the going's tough, but your fellow passengers are better company than you will ever find going with the flow.'"—D. J. Taylor, Wall Street Journal
“Joseph Epstein is Americas finest essayist and amongst Americas finest short story writers. Frederic Raphael is English, a prodigiously gifted man of letters in the fullest sense. . . . Both write like angels with boundless wit, exquisitely honed intelligence, and stiletto cattiness about their fellow writers, living and dead.”—Barbara Kay, National Post
is often wickedly entertaining, presenting as it does the rare spectacle of two clever and learned veterans of the literary wars letting it all hang out."—Ben Downing, New Criterion
A dazzling, year-long, transatlantic correspondence between two men of letters who have never met and yet are friends
About the Author
Frederic Raphael has written twenty-two novels, including The Glittering Prizes, made into a BBC television series, and several works of nonfiction. He is also an Oscar-winning screenwriter. He divides his time between London and the Perigord. Joseph Epstein is the author of more than twenty books, including Fred Astaire, published by Yale University Press, and most recently Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit. He lives in Chicago.