A Fair-Weather Friend Weighs the Value of Amity

A Fair-Weather Friend Weighs the Value of Amity

By Mindy Aloff

Friendship: An Exposé, by Joseph Epstein. Houghton Mifflin, 270 pages, $24.

A few years ago, Joseph Epstein, author of the popular collection of essaysSnobbery: The American Version (2002), began to notice that he wasn’t enjoying many of his friendships the way he once did. They took so much time, he calculated; they required so much in the way of obligation and reciprocity; and so many of the friends were so needy or loquacious that the spiritual payback to the author’s amour-propre for having expended energy on them wasn’t, so to speak, keeping up with inflation. The curating and maintenance of these friendships—through e-mail, phone calls, occasional letters and/or actual encounters—were getting in the way of his life.

And, for a self-described “gregarious melancholic, a highly sociable misanthrope,” Mr. Epstein is fortunate to have a rather lovely life: a wife he calls his best friend; reasonable health for a man in his late 60’s who has undergone bypass surgery; literary work as a writer of essays and short stories—his new collection, Friendship: An Exposé, is his 17th book—that challenges and rewards; and, by his estimate, around 75 friends. (Friendship is dedicated to one of them, a former bookseller named Arnie Glass who suggested the topic.) Furthermore, unusually for an American today, Mr. Epstein still lives close to where he was born and reared; he has the security of rootedness. Although retired from university teaching, at Northwestern, he seems to possess resources at the ready to go out for lunch or dinner with the least objectionable of his friends whenever he and his wife can find the time…

Read the rest at the New York Observer


clock Posted Thu Jun 29th, 2006

About cPaul

Father: "He never amounted to anything". Mother: "Who the hell does he think he is"? Former Teacher: "Smart as a bag of hammers". Former Boss: "Condescending". Brother: "Mom loves me more".
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