Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Review of Joseph Epstein's "Frozen in Time: Twenty Stories"

4/26/16.  My book review of a wonderful book of stories.     
      Joseph Epstein is a short story writer, an essayist, and from 1974 to 1998, the editor of the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s The American Scholar Magazine. He was a lecturer in the English department at Northwestern University, from 1974 to 2002. When he told his mother about his teaching job, she said, “It’s nice you got a job in the neighborhood.” He has contributed to many magazines, and newspapers. And in his words, he thinks outside of the lox.

          He is the author of more than 29 books on such topics as Snobbery, Envy, Friendship, Gossip, Fred Astaire, and Alex de Tocqueville.

           In his review of “Snobbery: The American Version,” no less than William F. Buckley Jr. writes, “Epstein…is perhaps the wittiest writer (working in his genre) alive, the funniest since Randall Jarrell,” … who I never heard of.

          Epstein’s latest collection of twenty stories in “Frozen in Time,” describes in witty, wise, and with effective surprise – one definition of creativity – the lives of people caught in predicaments. It was Henry James who observed that “Life is a predicament which precedes death.”

          His stories focus on sex, love, betrayal, aging, death, marriage, family loyalty, con-artists, gender identity, desire, mourning, and more.

          Epstein knows that there are as many different minds as bodies on this planet. He takes this knowledge and weaves unique stories about people we feel we have met, know and know about. These characters seem to have digested some of the wisdom of Francois de La Rochefoucauld, for example:  “Self-love is the greatest of all flatterers;”  “We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others;” “Everyone complains about his memory, and no one complains about his judgment.”


          Epstein writes about practical people, with perspective, passion, and humor.


          The titles of his entertaining stories are like flashy lures getting us to bite on the first page, and not stop: “The Viagra Triangle;” “JDate;” “Adultery”; and “My Five Husbands.”


          I give this book six stars out of five.   

Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D.
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