Friday, February 24, 2006


"The modern essay," writes Karl Shapiro, "has regained a good deal of its literary status in our time, much to the credit of Joseph Epstein."

Well, he is a marvellous essayist, that I can attest -- an elegant prose stylist who writes with surpassing insight, clarity, and aphoristic flair. I just finished reading his 1980 book Ambition: The Secret Passion -- one of more than a dozen books of commentary authored by him (he has also written two highly acclaimed books of short stories). In this book he argues that ambition, no matter how ambivolent we may feel about its excesses (and rightly so), can be defined as "the fuel of achievement", an answer to a deep seated need to realize our potential as well as (ok, I'm quoting from the book jacket now) an honourable way to influence and advance civilization. An absorbing as well as, I must admit as far as I'm concerned, a sobering read. For an update on his views, I highly recommend this 2004 piece in The Weekly Standard, entitled The Perpetual Adolescent: The Triumph of Youth Culture. I guarantee, especially you"perpetual youths" out there (oh yes, we are many), that you're in for a provocative as well as highly stimulating read.

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