Who is the greatest living essayist writing in English? Joseph Epstein would surely be at the top of anybody’s list. Epstein is penetrating. He is witty. He has a magic touch with words, that hard to define but immediately recognizable quality called style. Above all, he is impossible to put down. Joseph Epstein’s The Ideal of Culture: Essays is the fourth such volume from Axios Press and contains 63 essays. Subjects range from domestic life to current social trends to an appraisal of “contemporary nuttiness.” It follows the much acclaimed Essays in Biography, 2012, A Literary Education and Other Essays, 2014, and Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays, 2016. After reading Epstein, we see life with a fresh eye. We also see ourselves a little more clearly. This is what Plutarch intended: life teaching by example, but with a wry smile and such a sure hand that we hardly notice the instruction. It is just pure pleasure.
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About the Author
Joseph Epstein was formerly editor of the American Scholar. A long-time resident of Chicago, he has taught English and writing at Northwestern University for many years. He has written for numerous magazines including the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the Weekly Standard and Commentary. He is the author of 29 books, many of them collections of essays. His books include the bestselling Snobbery and Friendship as well as the short-story collections The Goldin Boys, Fabulous Small Jews, and The Love Song of A. Jerome Minkoff.
Table of ContentsIntroduction I. The CultureThe Ideal of Culture From Parent to Parenthood Death Takes No Holiday Wit Genius Cowardice Old Age and Other Laughs What’s So Funny? The Fall of the WASPs The Virtue of Victims Cool The Sixties University of Chicago Days
II. Literary Erich Auerbach Kafka Orwell Proust C. K. Scott Moncrieff The Young T. S. Eliot Philip Larkin Willa Cather George Kennan Isaiah Berlin Michael Oakeshott John O’Hara F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Most Successful Failure Wolcott Gibbs Evelyn Waugh J. F. Powers Edward Gibbon Herodotus Tacitus Encyclopaedia Britannica – The Eleventh Grammar Clichés Literary RivalsWhy Read Biography? III. Jewish Sholem Aleichem Jokes A Genre of Thought Jews on the Loose Jewish PugsHarry GoldenGershom ScholemDreaming of a Jewish Christmas
IV. MasterpiecesThe Brothers AshkenaziCivilization of the RenaissanceMontesquieuMachiavelli Gogol Speak, Memory Epictetus H. W. Fowler As a Driven Leaf Joseph and His Brothers Life and Fate Memoirs of Hadrian Charnwood’s Lincoln Book of the Courtier Ronald Syme Quest for Corvo The Old Bunch The Life of Johnson V. Hitting Eighty Hitting EightyEpigraph