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Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit Hardcover – November 29, 2011
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-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."
"[Epstein has] a literary tone that makes you think of venerable Manhattan editors with mid-Atlantic accents...like a good stand-up comedian (or a discoverer), he inspires confidence [in his writing]." -Wall Street Journal
Top Customer Reviews
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!
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Joseph Epstein, one of Northern America's best essayists alive today, is in his best form here. I bought three more copies after reading this. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Annabelle Lee
Unpleasantly written, bored affect, just not what it could/should have been. The subject is interesting; the author needed to work with that.Published 21 months ago by Wanda H. Giles
It's my own fault for expecting Epstein's Gossip to treat its topic more academically and less, well, conversationally than it does; despite his scholarly bonafides, the jacket... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Jennifer Grey
Anyone who knows Joseph Epstein as an essayist will find this book well worth the time spent reading it. Epstein never fails to enchant.Published on May 14, 2014 by G. M. Seely
Epstein has a great style and is a prolific writer based on his observations of human behaviour. He makes the case that Gossip has impact both negative and positive and it will... Read morePublished on November 29, 2013 by Jeffrey Swystun
I like gossip. So does the author. Epstein covers the waterfront with anecdotal selections acompanied with humor and frankness....and importantly, with humaneness.Published on November 10, 2013 by Cassandra
I purchased this book for research purposes. I was considering writing a stageplay with the central theme of gossip and thought this book would be of use. Read morePublished on March 16, 2013 by Donna Hoffman
So what is gossip? Some say it's the intellectual equivalent of chewing gum. But basically it's two or more people telling things about a third that the latter would not want... Read morePublished on February 17, 2013 by Sharon Isch
What a great read! I am often dumbfounded how almost every time a I go to a mainstream church it seems that the only two "vices" that preachers condemn are gossip and consumerism... Read morePublished on October 26, 2012 by mystified