Friendship: An Expos

Joseph Epstein, Author . Houghton Mifflin $24 (270p) ISBN 978-0-618-34149-8

The idealization of friendship, writes noted essayist Epstein, is "somehow false to the truth of friendship, at least as... we all live it." So Epstein examines the "art" of friendship, which "calls for regular maintenance through thoughtful cultivation." He opens with a "little taxonomy of friends," exploring the semantics of the word "friendship," and categories of friends (the saddest being the "ex-friend"). Epstein (Snobbery ) goes on to explore his own friendships, in particular the category of the "best friend." He catalogues the factors that influence the nature and course of friendship, from shared traits such as ethnicity or regional roots to connections across barriers of generations and class, including the complications of friendship between the sexes. A survivor of a bad first marriage and long remarried, Epstein is astute on the permutations of friendship within and alongside marriage. At the center of the book is a celebratory memoir of a long friendship with an older, much respected friend (now dead). Another friendship, conducted almost entirely in diary-like e-mails, is celebrated for its literary merit. Drawing on Aristotle, Montaigne, Cicero and Pliny, Epstein lucidly paraphrases and applies wisdom to his own life experience, producing a meditative memoir that is refined and modest in tone, but perhaps too hermetic. (July 5)

Reviewed on: 03/20/2006
Release date: 07/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 270 pages - 978-0-618-87215-2
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-547-52711-6
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