Why has gossip, a much-maligned yet irresistible and universal indulgence, increased in influence so that it dominates the news and stokes the Internet? Why do we love it so? What are its true functions? These are some of the questions critic and fiction writer Epstein broaches in this deliciously meandering history and keen analysis of gossip and its role in human affairs. After writing the treatises Snobbery (2002) and Friendship (2006), Epstein is in fine form to tease out the appeal, danger, and benefit of cattily addressing our favorite subject, other people. Epstein defines categories of gossip, from personal to celebrity, workplace, and political, and discusses how gossip “enforces a community’s norms” or, conversely, helps foster tolerance. Grandly well-read, Epstein tracks gossip’s place in great works of literature, profiles “Great Gossips of the Western World,” and shares potent vintage gossip. In his briskly erudite, zestfully original, and provokingly enjoyable anatomy of gossip, Epstein revels in the risky collusion of gossip within shared worlds and resoundingly condemns media-disseminated gossip that diminishes our ability to ascertain or value the truth. --Donna Seaman
"While Epstein’s 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 humanity’s foibles
, 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