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Life sentences : literary essays /
Joseph Epstein.
1st ed.
New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c1997.
347 p. ; 22 cm.
More Details
New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c1997.
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A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1997-09-01:
Epstein, the editor of the American Scholar and author of Plausible Prejudices, Partial Payments and Pertinent Players, may have run out of alliterative titles, but that hasn't stopped him from continuing to do what he does best: gambol through the gardens of literary greats‘with an occasional investigation of that ominous sinkhole above the septic tank. Whether he believes a writer to be rather overrated (Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell), a magnificent failure (Robert Musil), a disconcerting old satyr (Edmund Wilson, Kenneth Tynan) or a Great Man (Joseph Conrad, Michel de Montaigne), Epstein combines the same mix of literary appreciation and biographical thrubbing. He has certain recurring interests, such as the extent to which writers manage their public personae, and which writers are motivated by "ideas", by a philosophy, by a program (Musil, Dos Passos and Solzhenitsyn are; Bishop and Lowell aren't; Conrad transcends). He is fond of quoting Ortega y Gasset's "Create a concept, and reality leaves the room." But for the most part Epstein isn't trying to break new critical ground. Instead, these are the thoroughly enjoyable results of wide reading and felicitous, often funny, writing ("La Rochefoucauld," he writes in a Will Cuppy-ish sort of way, "sided with Queen Anne, which was the wrong, because the losing, side."). Epstein paraphrases William Hazlitt saying "that true taste is demonstrated by enthusiasm"‘and enthusiasm Epstein certainly has. (Oct.)
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews, September 1997
Publishers Weekly, September 1997
Booklist, October 1997
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Table of Contents
Introductionp. 9
Acknowledgmentsp. 13
Reading Montaignep. 17
C. P. Cavafy, A Poet in Historyp. 37
The Enduring V. S. Pritchettp. 54
F. Scott Fitzgerald's Third Actp. 72
Wise, Foolish, Enchanting Lady Maryp. 89
Kenneth Tynan, The Unshy Pornographerp. 109
Elizabeth Bishop: Never a Bridesmaidp. 128
Life Sentences, The Art of Joseph Conradp. 151
The Man Who Wrote Too Muchp. 171
Bye-Bye, Bunnyp. 189
La Rochefoucauld: Maximum Maximistp. 205
Why Solzhenitsyn Will Not Go Awayp. 224
Mr. Larkin Gets a Lifep. 236
Mary McCarthy in Retrospectp. 255
Ambrose Bierce, Our Favorite Cynicp. 274
Mistah Lowell - He Deadp. 286
Dreiser's Great Good Girlp. 308
U.S.A. Todayp. 322
Sam Lipman at The NEAp. 334
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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