Synopses & Reviews
Just as his best-selling Snobbery argued that contemporary American< br=""> snobbery isn& #39; t what it used to be, Friendship: An Expos& #233; begins< br=""> with Joseph Epstein& #39; s feeling that friendship, too, is somehow different< br=""> today. From the idealization of & quot; family time& quot; to the acceptance of gender< br=""> equality, from technological leaps like e-mail and instant messaging< br=""> to the (very recent) assumption that your husband or wife will be your best< br=""> friend, Epstein charts the unexpected and surprising forces that have< br=""> put pressure on and reshaped friendship.< br=""> < br=""> Epstein sketches an amusing yet serious anatomy of friendship in its contemporary version: its duties and requirements (& quot; Reciprocity, or Is It Obligation?& quot; ), the various kinds of friendships (& quot; A Little Taxonomy of Friends& quot; ), the differences between male and female friendships, the complications marriage creates (& quot; Friendship& #39; s New Rival& quot; ), even what happens when sex enters the equation. Moving easily from Aristotle to Seinfeld, and drawing on his own experiences with people great (Saul Bellow and Ralph Ellison) and unknown (an army bunkmate), he uncovers the rich and often surprising truths of friendship, illuminating those relationships -- contradictory, complicated, and wonderful -- without which we'd all be lost.
"The idealization of friendship, writes noted essayist Epstein, is 'somehow false to the truth of friendship, at least as... we all live it.' So Epstein examines the 'art' of friendship, which 'calls for regular maintenance through thoughtful cultivation.' He opens with a 'little taxonomy of friends,' exploring the semantics of the word 'friendship,' and categories of friends (the saddest being the 'ex-friend'). Epstein (Snobbery) goes on to explore his own friendships, in particular the category of the 'best friend.' He catalogues the factors that influence the nature and course of friendship, from shared traits such as ethnicity or regional roots to connections across barriers of generations and class, including the complications of friendship between the sexes. A survivor of a bad first marriage and long remarried, Epstein is astute on the permutations of friendship within and alongside marriage. At the center of the book is a celebratory memoir of a long friendship with an older, much respected friend (now dead). Another friendship, conducted almost entirely in diary-like e-mails, is celebrated for its literary merit. Drawing on Aristotle, Montaigne, Cicero and Pliny, Epstein lucidly paraphrases and applies wisdom to his own life experience, producing a meditative memoir that is refined and modest in tone, but perhaps too hermetic. (July 5)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Epstein's insights into the human condition strike true but are so gracefully stated that one's first reaction is to chuckle or laugh. For more than two decades, he has been a national treasure of wit and wisdom, pleasuring and profiting us at the same time." Library Journal
"As entertaining and illuminating as a leisurely lunch with a loquacious, literate friend." Kirkus Reviews
"Epstein writes in a tried, true and sometimes tired classical essay style: put forth an idea, support it with a quote by a long-deceased philosopher and then spice it up with a personal anecdote." Chicago Sun-Times
"Friendship might be the closest that Mr. Epstein will come to writing a memoir. He mentions a divorce, the death of a son. Mr. Epstein also enshrines his relationships in engaging prose....[S]pangled with winning turns of phrase." Wall Street Journal
"Books are friends, the librarians used to say in grade school; I paid attention, perhaps to a fault. But human friends are priceless, and Epstein, who knows both the paper-and-ink and flesh-and-blood kind of friend, has turned out a fascinating look at something that will remain important as long as we remain human." Baltimore Sun
"Epstein's history as a self-styled 'promiscuous friend,' who keeps in touch with everyone from boyhood chums to former students, at long last has turned him into a cold-eyed realist. This candid, discerning and often charming anatomy challenges tradition by giving as much weight to the little-noticed burdens of friendship as to its obvious rewards." Newsday
"[Epstein] is satisfyingly unpredictable in his opinions; one expects him to rail against the decline of letter-writing between friends, for example, but he surprises with his spirited endorsement of e-mail." Seattle Times
Just as his best-selling Snobbery
argued that contemporary American snobbery isn't what it used to be, Friendship: An Exposé
begins with Joseph Epstein's feeling that friendship, too, is somehow different today. From the idealization of "family time" to the acceptance of gender equality, from technological leaps like e-mail and instant messaging to the (very recent) assumption that your spouse will be your best friend, Epstein charts the unexpected and surprising forces that have squeezed and shaped friendship. In the process, he sketches a witty and incisive anatomy of the modern version: its duties and requirements ("Reciprocity, or Is It Obligation?"), the various kinds of friendships ("A Little Taxonomy of Friends"), the differences between male and female friendships, the complications marriage creates (Friendship's New Rival"), even what happens when sex enters the equation.
Moving easily from Aristotle to Seinfeld, and drawing on his own experiences with people great (Saul Bellow and Ralph Ellison) and unknown (an army bunkmate), Epstein uncovers the surprising and hidden truths of friendships and so inspires us to reconsider our own.
The author sketches a witty and incisive anatomy of the modern friendship: its duties and requirements, the various kinds of friendships, the differences between male and female friendships, the complications marriage creates, and even what happens when sex enters the equation.
Is it possible to have too many friends? Is your spouse supposed to be your best friend? How far should you go to help a friend in need? And how do you end a friendship that has run its course?
In a wickedly entertaining anatomy of friendship in its contemporary guises, Joseph Epstein uncovers the rich and surprising truths about our favored companions. Friendship illuminates those complex, wonderful relationships without which we'd all be lost.
About the Author
Joseph Epstein is the author of the best-selling Snobbery: The American Version, among other books, and was formerly editor of the American Scholar. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly, and other magazines. He lives in Chicago.
Table of Contents
Foreword xi 1. A Little Taxonomy of Friends 1 2. A Charming Gift for False Intimacy 11 3. Best Friends 23 4. The Quickest Way to Kill Friendships 34 5. FriendsWho Needs Em? 46 6. An Extremely Sketchy History of Friendship 56 7. Reciprocity, or Is It Obligation? 69 8. A Friendship Diary: Adulation, Stimulation, Obligation 82 9. Pity Is at the Bottom of Women 95 10. Boys Will Be Boys 107 11. Petty Details vs. Eternal Verities 125 12. Disparate Friends 140 13. Cliques and Clans and Communities 154 14. Talking the Talk 166 15. Techno-Friendships 180 16. Friendships New Rival 192 17. Broken Friendships 205 18. Friendlessness 225 19. Is There an Art of Friendship? 240 A Bibliographical Note 255 Acknowledgments 259 Index 260