Saturday, May 3, 2014

Epstein The Critic

On Writing

Joseph Epstein:
Giraldi writes: "How true is it that no editor wants to publish a dull review when lots of editors do just that? In a 1932 letter to a friend, George Orwell bellyached about the book pages of newspapers that 'seem deliberately to seek out the dullest people they can get to review the dullest books.' A career enemy of dullness and dullards, Epstein has much to say about the intention and criteria of criticism."
Source: NewCrit

An article, by William Giraldi, in The New Criterion writes about the American literary critic, Joseph Epstein.

Giraldi writes:
For more than five decades as a critic and essayist, Joseph Epstein has been one of our most valuable and vociferous antidotes against puerile and invertebrate reviews, a smasher of hype and entrenched pieties among the literati, an arbiter with a bloodstained yardstick, a writer serious about his convictions and his comedy. With Ruskin and Arnold and Wilde, Epstein is a shining example of how essay writing and criticism aspire to equal footing with imaginative literature. The author of twenty-four books—his newest collection, A Literary Education, will be released in June—Epstein illustrates the necessary difference between disposition and argument and never confuses rhetoric with logic, or rationalization with reasoning.1 By turns cantankerous and comedic, traditional and irreverent, damning and praising, he writes sentences you want to remember. And that, in the last analysis, is the only measure of a writer.
One might not always agree with Mr. Epstein (I do not), but one can not easily ignore what he has to say. When I first stumbled upon Epstein's witty and often (ir)relevant comments on reading, writing, literature and daily life, about 20-odd years ago,  I found his views worth noting, standing apart from the predictable and the drab, much like Montaigne and Mencken, essayists whom I also enjoy reading. Epstein is one of the few writers you can read, disagree with, and yet return to again. And again.

Have we forgotten how to laugh? Do we take ourselves overly serious? Are we easily offended?  I think this is a general trend these days. The recipe, if anything, is to have a healthy dose of skepticism and self-criticism, and vigorously mix these with a large dose of humour.

You can read more of this article at [NewCrit].