In 19 essays first published in Commentary , Encounter , the New Criterion and the Times Literary Supplement , Epstein ``repays'' writers to whom he feels indebted as a reader, reassessing their work and placing it in the rich context of their lives. Learned, lucid and fluent the author certainly is, offering carefully considered opinions on Philip Larkin, Barbara Pym, Chekhov and E. B. White. But his engaging voice and mellifluous prose do not conceal or compensate for Epstein's often mean-spirited, reactionary stance. His potshots at leftists, women and gays detract from the authority of some judgments (Marxist critics ``festoon their cliches'' on Dreiser's novels; Dorothy Parker is but a ``hard little number''; E. M. Forster's novels are rendered ``obsolete'' and ``empty'' by the ``personal antipathies'' of a ``homosexual utopian''). His vastly negative re-examination of Forster, made in light of the novelist's homosexuality, is patronizing and unwarranted. The chief problem is not that Epstein grinds an ax, but that he doesn't acknowledge the foundations of his polemics, forging ahead with impassioned complacence. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989 Release date: 01/01/1989 Genre:
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