Distant Intimacy: A Friendship in the Age of the Internet

Frederic Raphael and Joseph Epstein. Yale Univ., $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-300-18694-9
Claiming to be the first literary correspondence conducted via Internet, this wide-ranging volume comprises a year’s worth of e-mails between novelist and Academy Award–winning screenwriter Raphael (The Glittering Prizes), and American essayist and short story writer Epstein (Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit). Despite never having met in person or spoken on the phone, Raphael and Epstein embarked on this “friendship electronique” at the start of 2009 expressly to publish the results. They let fly a fantastic range of creative insults as they log keen opinions on Susan Sontag, Edmund Wilson, Vladimir Nabokov, George Steiner, and seemingly every writer, critic, and publisher within memory’s reach. “There is…no memory for grievances quite equal to a writer’s,” Raphael notes, and the book is sometimes overrun with anecdotes of past slights, bitter gossip, and moments of vanity—often from Epstein’s keyboard. Yet there is little conflict between the authors, who agree on nearly every point the other makes. They treat each other warmly, and with excruciating politeness. The two are at their best when delving into matters closest to heart: anti-Semitism in literature, the decline of good critics and the novel, wise commiserations on the state of the publishing industry, and reflections on long, successful careers. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/25/2013
Release date: 05/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 348 pages - 978-0-300-19620-7
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