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Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit Kindle Edition

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Length: 258 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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."
-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."
-Publishers Weekly

Product Details

  • File Size: 823 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 054784459X
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (November 29, 2011)
  • Publication Date: November 29, 2011
  • Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005OCG41S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #684,321 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

JOSEPH EPSTEIN is the author of the best-selling Snobbery and of Friendship, as well as the short story collections The Goldin Boys and Fabulous Small Jews, 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By NSW TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love gossip, and since I work in academia I have plenty of opportunity to practice it - and I'm sure be the target (in fact, I hope I am, because if nobody's gossiping about you, it means you're irrelevant!). There are some good "how-to's" I'll take from this book, though I'm not sure that was really author Joseph Epstein's intention.

Epstein's a very entertaining writer, and the examples give a historical context to something we probably don't consider as a serious method of conversation - I'm not saying it's a valuable or useful method, but it IS communication. I appreciated the Talmudic quote to not say anything good about your friends, because it often leads to the negative, and I think that's very true.

I agree with a previous reviewer that this feels like a series of collected magazine articles that analyze gossip from a series of perspectives. Unlike that reviewer, I do feel each example was effectively and interestingly connected.

Ultimately, while I was entertained and impressed by Epstein's amusing writing skills, the book itself doesn't add up to that much. It feels very light, even if the subject matter is serious at times; I'm not sure it demands much deep thinking. Although the section that explores how journalism = gossip is meaningful and interesting. Still, as a book to get for yourself, it's fun but not memorable.

But I do think this would be a great holiday or birthday gift - especially to an academic, or someone who works in a back-bitey office enviornment. It would let them put a little researched spin on the behavior they likely practice but never seriously think about.

Plus, if you buy it for someone, then the two of you can talk about it, which is the whole point anyway!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D_shrink VINE VOICE on November 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have enjoyed reading the writings of this author since I first read his essay in the 7/12/2000 edition of the WSJ called "I'm Eppy, but Call Me Mr. Epstein".

The author spends the first few introductory chapters defining gossip and some closely allied synonyms. One of his definitions of gossip is "One party telling another what a third party doesn't want known." The mere fact that it may actually be true makes it all the more destructive. He then gives an example of how a "News Leak" is different from pure gossip in saying that gossip may start out as nothing more than entertainment while a leak always has an underling serious motive to it. He even goes into trying to explain the derivation of the word gossip attributing it at one point to the information operatives [spies] of the Revolutionary War, who were told to go-sip [some booze] with the enemy to derive the necessary information sought. I found that informative, as interesting minds always want to know.

My favorite chapter in the book was on Walter Winchell, which even knowing who he was dates me a bit. It seems that he began his career in vaudeville as a tap dancer before becoming the progenitor of all gossip columnists of today. With a nice turn of phrase the author so succinctly puts it, "A hoofer by trade, he was a hustler in spirit and he hustled much better than he hoofed...Before long, Winchell would give up his tap shoes for tapping out words on a typewriter."

He also gossips on Lady Christina Brown Evans who is the editor of the Daily Beast and Newsweek. You will get the real low down on her methods of ascension to those lofty pedestals of society. This was even better than the chapter on Barbara Walters.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Inna Tysoe VINE VOICE on December 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a really fun book to read. It is well written, provides you with an inside look into various celebrities (Barbara Walters, Monica Lewinsky, and Tina Brown to name but a few), yet somehow it (to use Epstein's own words) it succeeds in not making you demeaned by your own low curiosity. In short, according to Epstein, the book succeeds in producing buzz (buzz not just about contemporaries by the way, but about luminaries such as Louis XIV and H.L. Mencken as well). All of which makes it a great read.

But that also makes it a problem for Epstein's larger point. For, while he is perfectly willing to concede gossip's positive uses (it enforces social mores, tells you what you really need to know about your fellow human beings, and helps your social skills), the larger point he is trying to make is that the Internet has given us too much gossip. His wants us to come away shaking our collective heads at the un-seriousness of the information we are presented even in serious publications. Because that information is so filled with gossip as to be merely a distraction. He wants us to absorb the Talmudic lessons that we are not to even start talking well of our fellow man because we will, in the end speak badly of him and the Talmudic lesson of Lashon hara or the evil tongue. Or at least he says he does.

For, in the end, these moral lessons (sprinkled as they are in between juicy pieces of gossip) are what prevent you from thinking that your own voyeuristic interest in this book degrades you. But, let's be honest, it's not the moral lessons that keep you turning the pages.
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