Sunday, November 20, 2011

GOSSIP by Joseph Epstein ( A Book Review)

As the subject for a full length book, Gossip doesn’t hold much interest for me. But I read everything Joseph Epstein writes and I have not yet been disappointed. Epstein doesn’t tend to write definitive books on subjects, but thoughtful ones. He explores his experience with a topic and the history of it. Why do we like gossip? How is gossip beneficial and how is it hurtful? How has it been used for good and bad. Sprinkled through this history of gossip public and private are personal anecdotes, some involving notable figures.

 To summarize the section involving gossip in America, Epstein quotes Ben Franklin, the original gossip columnist in his opinion, “…if any are offended by my publicity their private vices, I promise they shall have satisfaction, in a very little time, of their good friends and neighbors in the same circumstances.” Later Epstein shows how high society in 20th Century America sought out the attention of gossip columnists and how Hollywood moguls fed gossip to Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons to promote their films and worry their wayward stars. He shows how Walter Winchell used his gossip column to become one of the most power private citizens in the country and how that hubris eventually led to his downfall. What about modern gossip? 
Like me, Epstein doesn’t recognize most of the names in The New Your Post’s Page 6 Column, but he can see that gossip isn’t about to go out of fashion.

 You come away not sure how much Epstein endorses gossip or dislikes it. But you have a much fuller knowledge of the subject before you began the book. Even if you are not interested in gossip pick up a book of essays by Joseph Epstein and enjoy a great mind at work and play.