Synopses & Reviews
A dishy, incisive exploration of gossip—from celebrity rumors to literary romans à clef, from personal sniping to political slander—by one of our “great essayists” (David Brooks)
To his successful examinations of some of the most powerful forces in modern life—envy, ambition, snobbery, friendship—the keen observer and critic Joseph Epstein now adds Gossip. No trivial matter, despite its reputation, gossip is eternal and necessary. Himself a master of the art, Epstein serves up delightful mini-biographies of the Great Gossips of the Western World along with many choice bits from his own experience. He also makes a powerful case that gossip has morphed from its old-fashioned best—clever, mocking, a great private pleasure—to a corrosive new-school version, thanks to the reach of the mass media and the Internet. Gossip has even invaded politics and journalism, causing unsubstantiated information to be presented as fact. Contemporary gossip claims to reveal truth, but as Epstein shows, its our belief in truth itself that may be destroyed by gossip.
Written in his trademark erudite and witty style, Gossip captures the complexity of this immensely entertaining subject.
"To be sure, Rakoff can issue a withering snark with the best of them. But once his rapier wit has sliced the buttons off its target's clothing, revealing the quivering, vulnerable mass within, his fundamental sense of decency gets the best of him and he can't resist reaching out and helping the poor unfortunate soul get back on its feet, straighten its duds and sally forth with a heartfelt 'Don't worry, it's not you. It's me.'" Amy Reiter, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon.com review here
"David Rakoff's hilarious, bittersweet stories are epic struggles between smoky bars and the great outdoors, management and labor, Santa Claus and Sigmund Freud, New York versus everywhere else, and, not least, neighbor-to-the-North against South. Rakoff is such an American original it turns out he's Canadian. Vive the brain drain!" Sarah Vowell, author of Take the Cannoli
"Rakoff likes to paint himself as urbane to a fault, an outsider anywhere unpaved. But then, in the woods or on a mountaintop, he reveals himself, despite his searing and hilarious observations, to be a completely unrelenting romantic." Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
"Rakoff possesses a sociologist's eye for places where today's consoling myths reside." New York Times
"With Fraud, David Rakoff manages to successfully pass himself off as the wittiest and most perceptive man in the world." David Sedaris, author of Me Talk Pretty One Day
"While Epsteins ruminations on how we became a nation of gawkers ring painfully true, it is his willingness to analyze delectable tidbits regarding authors, intellectuals and other luminaries that enlivens the narrative... Amusing and serious in equal measures, Epstein grants readers the pleasurable company of a master observer of humanitys foibles
-Kirkus, starred "Delectable firsthad anecdotes and portraits...add to the pleasures of this serious appraisal. Readers who share Epstein's concern about gossip's power 'to invade privacy, to wreck lives' and his reluctance to wholly condemn it 'because I enjoy it too much' will find him disquieting and delightful."
"[Epstein has] a literary tone that makes you think of venerable Manhattan editors with mid-Atlantic accents...like a good stand-up comedian (or a discoverer), he inspires confidence [in his writing]." -Wall Street Journal
From This American Life alum David Rakoff comes a hilarious collection that single-handedly raises self-deprecation to an art form. Whether impersonating Sigmund Freud in a department store window during the holidays, climbing an icy mountain in cheap loafers, or learning primitive survival skills in the wilds of New Jersey, Rakoff clearly demonstrates how he doesn't belong — nor does he try to. In his debut collection of essays, Rakoff uses his razor-sharp wit and snarky humor to deliver a barrage of damaging blows that, more often than not, land squarely on his own jaw — hilariously satirizing the writer, not the subject. Joining the wry and the heartfelt, Fraud offers an object lesson in not taking life, or ourselves, too seriously.
Journalist, actor, and radio commentator Rakoff has gathered in his first book what can best be described as essays on contemporary culture. And therein lies Rakoff's genius and his burgeoning appeal. The wry and the heartfelt join in his prose to resurrect that most neglected of literary virtues: wit.
A juicy, incisive exploration of gossip in all its forms--from celebrity rumors to literary romans a clef, from personal sniping to political slander--by one our "great essayists" (David Brooks)
About the Author
David Rakoff is a writer-at-large for GQ magazine, and a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine and Public Radio International's This American Life. He has also written for Outside, Vogue, the New York Observer, and Salon, among others. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Part I: Private Gossip
1. How It Works 1
2. Feasible, Uncheckable, Deeply Damning 11
3. When Is It All Right to Gossip? 21
4. In the Know 31
Great Gossips of the Western World, I 37
5. The Truth Defense 48
6. The Gossip Transaction 54
7. Need Gossip Be Trivial? 60
8. Pure Speculation 65
Part II: Public Gossip
9. Gossip Goes Public 73
10. Gossip Goes Center Ring 80
11. Shooting at Celebrities 90
Great Gossips of the Western World, II 103
12. Antediluvian Gossip 114
13. Literary Gossip 126
14. Gay Gossip 137
Great Gossips of the Western World, III 149
Part III: Private Become Public
15. Caught in the Net 161
16. Whores of Information 176
17. Snoopin and Scoopin 187
Great Gossips of the Western World, IV 197
18.Too Much Even of Kreplach 211
A Bibliographical Note 219