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Snobbery: The American Version Paperback – July 7, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is divided into two parts. The first part (chapters one through ten) seeks (and finds) a fair definition of what snobbery is, explains how it works, and traces the history of snobbery in America from its revolutionary origins, to its classist WASP height, and finally to its omnipresent state in our current "egalitarian" times. Epstein makes especially good use of his popular self-deprecating humor in the first chapter, "It Takes One to Know One." The second part (chapters eleven through twenty-three) describes several prominent varieties of modern snobbery, such as college snobbery ("Jimmy goes to Rice, Jane goes to Vanderbilt"), club snobbery, intellectual snobbery, political snobbery, name-dropping, sexual and religious prejudice, celebrity hobnobbing, food and wine snobbery, and trend-following. The book is closed with a final chapter, the "Coda," where Epstein explains why he believes that snobbery, though it is a deplorable social practice, is here to stay. The mock reviews printed on the jacket's back cover (from Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, and Noel Coward) provide some good laughs for the familiar reader.
I know that I gave a rather critical review of Epstein's earlier book, "Ambition" (c. 1980), but this new volume (though it addresses a related topic) is quite different.Read more ›
Epstein writes with humor, analytic clarity, and efficient prose.
Buy this book...but first consider if you want your own snobbery exposed to such a sharp-tongued writer.
He also does a wonderful job of showing how the basis for snobbery has changed, from WASPs and elitism based on real but arbitrary standards like the name of the school you attended, or your connections to established families --- to the modern world, warped by the arbitrary winds of fashionable status, the "hotness" of market driven mania.
Still, as a reviewer of great excellence, I must say that his discussion of his attempts to overcome a life of looking down on people and to enter the "snob free zone" limps along -- does he really want us to believe that such a place exists? Who would want to go there?
So read this book if you want penetrating insights, sound social commentary, and great amusement. If those are the kinds of things that a person like YOU finds interesting. I might even have given him 5 stars, but of course, I reserve such an award for true merit, of which I am the sole judge.
Where a pedantic sociologist would've come across as a parody of his own research material, Epstein writes in disarming prose that--for purposes of sheer delight, anyway--suggests the kind of scholar you'd most want to sit next to at a dinner party. A long established personal essayist, Epstein has returned to the first person narrative, which suits him well for this book, even more so than it did for his explicitly self-reflective collection of essays, "Narcissus Leaves The Pool." After all, anyone peddling themselves as an expert on snobbery had better come clean to his own lapses into the social disgrace and Epstein frequently does so with characteristic humor and self-deprecation. And regarding the reviews that say there's *too* much entertainment here and not enough enlightenment, I'd argue that even in dealing with all the cliche notions we have about what constitutes snobbery (not to mention all the synchedotal cliches we use in place of the word itself), Epstein still manages to chart the phenomenon's peculiar and seemingly paradoxical evolution in such a sustained democratic culture as ours.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this book to give as a gift after reading a library copy of it.Published 11 days ago by Raymond J. Montello
i really enjoyed this! helps to identify the snob in all of usPublished 3 months ago by nelly nancy
The book is good if you are into opionated, intellgent, philosophical pieces about America and how the people in it think, treat, act around each other. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jennifer Lampman
We read this for book club in 2004. Our group loved it and the subject matter provoked lively conversation. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Paloma Reads
This is probably Joseph Epstein at his best. "Snobbery: The American Version" is an easy read where the author gives readers his opinion about renown literarily and popular... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Chilensis
I read the Kindle version of this book. I agree with some of the other reviewers that it seems, at times, a platform on which to display the author's own snobbish sensibilities... Read morePublished on September 9, 2013 by John C. Black, Jr.
The idea that this person aims to provide some sort of social commentary is laughable. With a little talent for using dressed up language, Epstein has done little more than give... Read morePublished on May 6, 2013 by Gary