Reviewed by John Glover, Reference Librarian for the Humanities
Joseph Epstein's conversational little book is a pleasure to read if you've ever enjoyed looking down your nose at anyone, or if you've ever felt the horror of being looked on by those around you. For that matter, it's a pleasurable read if you enjoy thinking about all the weird tics and quirks displayed by people in their unceasing attempts to prove themselves ever so slightly better than their fellows. Epstein's manner is self-deprecating, but all the same, it's a pleasure to watch his own snobbism at work as he dryly skewers the sensibilities of social climbers everywhere. Almost the epitome of light reading, this book is perfect for the beach, or a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Epstein roams through every aspect of life where we check the people around us, judging those below, emulating those above. He touches on clothing (bespoke and otherwise), schools (ivy-laden or state), and home décor (Picasso or pink flamingos). Epstein's life in academia, occasionally mixing and mingling with the tony, has given him perspective to speak on a broad range of society. Whatever his own predilections, he is a compassionate observer of human foibles, whether his own or others'.