From Publishers Weekly
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)
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Following the hit-a-nerve success of Snobbery
(2002), Epstein offers another philosophic and adroitly crafted scrutiny of a hard-to-pin-down yet essential aspect of human life--friendship. Happiest when he is exercising his mordant wit, misanthropic viewpoint, and daredevil candor, Epstein tries the reader's patience with repeated assertions that he attracts friends easily and that friends are too demanding. But even the most riled reader will stay the course because Epstein's deliberately provoking inquiry is deeply intriguing and his conclusions striking and resonant. As he analyzes the components of friendship--trust, reciprocity, obligation, understanding--he draws on the Greeks and Romans, Montaigne and Johnson, and he rolls out a fascinating history of friendship, which, like every other aspect of human existence, changes over time. As Epstein contrasts men's and women's friendships, and considers aspects of contemporary life that endanger friendship, he articulates perceptions and feelings usually left inchoate or suppressed. Epstein engineers irksome generalities to flush out startling insights, and it is a pleasure to sharpen one's mind against the polished stone of his meticulously reasoned prose. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved