Assaying The Essay

by Timothy Lusch

Worth The Wait And The Weight Of Worth

The Essays of Joseph Epstein

If you’ve never read Joseph Epstein, I envy you (he actually authored a book called Envy).  Epstein is an editor, essayist, critic, and short story writer. Over the years he has published hundreds of articles in magazines, journals, and newspapers, and wrote numerous books. He is the best living essayist in America today, and certainly one of the very best in the world. Epstein, along with Montaigne and Orwell is a master of the form. In the Age of Attention Deficit, the essay (along with its fictional cousin the short story) should be more popular than it is. But that may well be a function of the dearth of essayists worth reading. Not so Epstein. I have yet to read an essay he has written that was not interesting, entertaining, and insightful. Not once. And I have read hundreds. So reward your wait, pick up a collection of his essays. He is worth it.

“I was recently asked what it takes to become a writer. Three things, I answered: first, one must cultivate incompetence at almost every other form of profitable work. This must be accompanied, second, by a haughty contempt for all the forms of work that one has established one cannot do. To these two must be joined, third, the nuttiness to believe that other people can be made to care about your opinions and views and be charmed by the way you state them. Incompetence, contempt, lunacy—once you have these in place, you are set to go.”