Narcissus Leaves the Pool: Familiar Essays

Joseph Epstein, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $25 (321p) ISBN 978-0-395-94403-5
Demonstrating the continuing relevance and joys of the well-crafted essay, Epstein's thoughtful excursions explore a range of subjects from the profound (mortality) to the pedantic (language abuses) and the popular (the music of the 1940s). But they are always deeply personal. Without sacrificing his own unique viewpoint, Epstein (Life Sentences), for 23 years the editor of The American Scholar, always engages his reader, providing access to his knowledge instead of merely lecturing. For example, when expounding upon the delights of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he makes the reader with no knowledge of Gibbon feel as if she, too, might pick up the volumes and breeze through them. Many of the essays are powerful: using himself as an example, Epstein charts his growing fears of aging and death to painful and provocative effect, and his descriptions of the human body are wrenching. His elegantly turned sentences reveal quirks and cultural musings with a comic touch that is light, but never flippant. The best essays achieve classical balance in a completely modern voice. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/03/1999
Release date: 05/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 321 pages - 978-0-618-87216-9
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